It's largely fiction. We can't credit the most recent financial meltdown with spawning the virtual biotech era as these lean businesses reflect way more than a desire for low-cost drug development and scarcity of capital. (See items 1 through 4 for evidence of that last point.)
Virtual biotech formation comes from a combination of factors. Take Stromedix, which got off the ground in 2007. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech, acquired in February by Biogen Idec ($BIIB), benefited from its CEO Michael Gilman's knowledge about STX-100 from his deals as R&D chief at Biogen. Gilman, who had been an entrepreneur-in-residence at Atlas, put together a deal to license the antibody from Biogen and 5 or so years later Biogen regained full rights to the anti-fibrosis antibody in a buyout of the virtual startup.
Indeed, biotechs have used virtual strategies for a number of years. Tioga was founded in 2005, for instance, after Collinson took note of how hungry biotech groups were able to be productive with small staffs and fewer resources than Big Pharma during the late-1990s.