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.
Investors have grown accustomed to hearing news of major announcements from big pharma and blue chip biotech companies during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference week. However, as it turned out, headline catalysts were in short supply. In the absence of any major M&A deals taking place, the event turned out to be unusually muted.
Delegates convening in San Francisco Monday for the 38th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference and other related biotechnology conferences running at the same time will certainly be in a better frame of mind than just 12 months ago. Back then, the sector had just come off a terrible fourth quarter, with investors shying away from biopharma company equities big time.
It appears that the spirit of giving has come early, with leading biopharmaceutical companies providing investors with a surprise present of a significant jump in their share prices in October. The reversal in the sector's fortunes was catalyzed by an outpouring of positive news, including strong third-quarter financial results that has spilled over into early November.
Heading into the final quarter, the sector's leading biopharmaceutical companies once again underperformed the general market in September. Overall, the third quarter was extremely lackluster with investors showing little interest in getting involved, a situation that is likely to prevail until the end of the year. Companies will need to release strong 3Q financial reports just to tread water in the coming months.