Reality check: Reuters sees Big Pharma growing risk averse

Reuters' Deena Beasley came away from the J.P. Morgan meeting in San Francisco with a sense that the pace of deal-making between biotechs and pharma companies has been slowed by Big Pharma's "limited appetite for risk."

"The market is really ugly out there," Arena Pharmaceuticals CEO Jack Lief told Beasley. And that's why Arena wasn't able to meet its self-imposed deadline of the end of 2009 for finding a commercial partner on its closely-watched obesity drug. That deal, he added, should now be in place ahead of an approval.

But in some two dozen meetings FierceBiotech held at the J.P. Morgan over three days, the consensus opinion expressed time and again was that Big Pharma more and more relies on biotech companies to act as an early-stage developer, de-risking programs that can be partnered following proof-of-concept trials. That template for drug development has become a common biotech business model. True, huge mergers involving a slate of top-tier pharma companies in 2009 at least temporarily absorbed the time and attention of key players, they add, but the partnering trend is well established and accelerating--provided you have programs in place that the retailers are interested in.

- here's the Reuters' piece