2008 biotech industry predictions

In biotechnology, the recent past serves as a reliable prologue. If you want to look for clues for what trends will dominate the industry, look at the past 12 months. Turn around and you can see ahead. For a business where the headlines always seemed packed with surprises--some pleasant, some exciting, and many just plain nasty for all involved--the learning curve stretches over a lengthy time horizon.

There are no overnight success stories in biotech. Antibodies didn't just emerge from the lab and burst into the clinic. Their striking advances--a prelude to the more exciting late-stage data we can expect in 2008--were the result of years of painstaking science. As more money finds its way to drug discovery, it will flow naturally to the most promising therapies at the latest stage of development.

Along the way, though, every misstep by a public company is likely to hammered by investors. Biotechnology has attracted quite a crowd of speculators who feed off the sudden market gyrations. That market amplification is only likely to grow more pronounced in the year ahead if Wall Street profits are hard to come by. For a journalist, it's hard to find a more interesting business to cover. Every day will bring a new set of examples of the major trends on display below. - John Carroll

1. More mixed messages from the FDA

2. Gaming the system will dominate start-ups

3. Dealmaking stays big even as the markets tremble

4. Biotechnology will expand its global reach

5. More jaw-dropping scientific advances lay ahead