Investors in small and midsized biopharma companies were certainly rewarded in 2019, with group members in the BioWorld Drug Developers index on a tear. The price-weighted index returned 40% in value thanks to a steady flow of positive regulatory and clinical trial results from the companies throughout the year. However, investors may be less impressed with the start they have made this year, with the index dipping 8.4% in January.
Biotech investors had every reason to feel bullish heading into the new decade. The sector had turned around in 2019 and was riding a wave of a very strong fourth-quarter performance, with the BioWorld Biopharmaceutical Index closing up 14% for the year after being underwater from April through to September. Unfortunately, those great expectations were quickly erased during J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference week (Jan. 10 – Jan. 17), which turned out to be a very low-key affair absent of any blockbuster M&A revelations. As a result, confidence has now given way to concerns about the prospects for biopharmaceutical companies going forward, particularly as unfavorable political rhetoric on drug pricing will certainly be dialed up during this election year.