UK's biotech stars may be fading, but new hopefuls shine

The Guardian sings a dirge for the biotech dead as it counts the victims among the small-cap developers in recent times. It's a familiar obituary: Antisoma, now a brain-dead shell company, Renovo, which is winding down ops, and Ark, "in restructuring mode." To add to the pall, the U.K. newspaper also declared the eminent death of the "binary biotech;" small developers that face a make-or-break future based on the fate of a lead program.

Three years ago, laments The Guardian, hopeful biotech execs crowded 49 tables at the European Mediscience award. This year the tally was a woeful 32 tables. Then, there are a number of critical comments about how bad U.K. companies are at commercializing scientific advances.

"It would take a brave new company to come out with a binary approach," says Vectura chief Chris Blackwell. "Investors are not stupid--they want companies that have several shots on goal and have good management, a good strategy and a punchy business plan."

It's only after a big dose of doom and gloom that The Guardian gets around to some of the brighter biotech news, highlighting the current trend on collaborations.

In fact, if its reporters had pushed a little harder, they would have found a number of hopeful headlines at the helm in the U.K. In recent days we've seen the launch of another GSK spinout, Autifony, to study new hearing drugs. There's also been a $13 million funding round for KalVista and a Cambridge University spinout, Mission Therapeutics, which grabbed a $10 million A round for new work on cancer drugs.

To be sure, public offerings in the biotech arena face a market chilly enough to drive off all but the most intrepid entrepreneurs. And venture capital is not easily come by. But after a long, rough passage, the U.K.'s silver lining is starting to shine through.

- read the article from The Guardian