Shield Therapeutics doesn't have any drugs on the market. The U.K. biotech has no price controversies to contend with, let alone a CEO with a history of dealing out routine price increases. But the biotech, like many others in its position, is still feeling the heat of the faraway drug pricing brouhaha in the U.S.
On Monday, Shield Therapeutics opted to postpone its $164 million IPO on the London Stock Exchange, noting that current market conditions didn't make this a good time to raise cash it planned to use to boot up commercialization work on a late-stage anemia drug.
The news barely stirred a ripple in the global biotech scene, which is dealing with a tsunami of stories about how well respected, long established biotechs like Biogen, players like Valeant and big pharma players like Pfizer have found just how lucrative routine price hikes can be when applied to old drugs. But the prospect that this intense heat of attention on drug prices in the U.S. will finally force Congress to do something substantive to manage the price of older drugs, at least, has put a chill on every biotech, public or private, including ones like Shield.
Over the past three years the biotech IPO market has been in full party mode, with a host of drug developers taking advantage of investors' wide open arms to risk and the quick profits they could enjoy in biotech. Crossover investors piled in, billions flowed into new companies. But with nerves already at least somewhat frayed at the idea that the boom had become a bubble, Martin Shkreli's controversial move to buy an old drug and boost prices more than 5000% seemed to drive home the disturbing fact that drug companies could do anything they want with a price.
Shkreli, of course, is small potatoes, even after Hillary Clinton's use of the controversy to call for a new approach on managing drug prices. But the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and others quickly turned their attention to much bigger fish, like Valeant ($VRX) and the mainstream Big Pharma players, to find plenty of examples of smaller, but steady price hikes on older drugs that provided blockbuster increases of cash that didn't require any added value from drug trials.
Now a little noticed but standard industry practice has blown into a central presidential debate issue that will be at center stage for the next year, at least. Gilead's ($GILD) hep C strategy first turned people's attention to drug prices, but it's the current uproar that is affecting biotechs of every stripe.
The big question now is just how damaging the fallout will be--is it possible, for example, to separate how prices are established for truly innnovative new drugs compared to aging ones--and whether the bear market that now exists for biotech will become fully entrenched or serve as a pause before the rebound.
So tell us what you think. Is the long-running bull market for biotech dead? Or will it rebound later this year? Take the poll, and I'll discuss the results at the London biotech conference on Monday before publishing. -- John Carroll (email | Twitter)