2014 - a year of intense activity in the life sciences sector.
In the pharma sector, consolidation continued among some larger companies (most recently Actavis' acquisition of Allergan), and did not come off for others (Pfizer / AZ and AbbVie / Shire). Pharma companies also innovated in a different way: adopting new deal structures, such as the GSK / Novartis asset swap.
The environment for pharma companies continued to be a challenging one, with the pricing of medicines under pressure and an increasingly difficult regulatory environment. Greater transparency remained a priority for the law makers, with the new Clinical Trials Regulationbringing in a new regime under which the results of all clinical trials must be made available within a year of a trial finishing. The EFPIA Disclosure Code on transfers of value to healthcare professionals means that, with effect from 2015, all payments and other transfers of value made by pharma companies to healthcare professionals will need to be published on an individual healthcare professional basis.
For UK biotech companies, funding remained a challenge notwithstanding a handful of substantial fund raisings such as the $40m of investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust received by Kymab in May. An asset-centric approach to funding became increasingly common as a method of providing commercial and financial flexibility for biotech companies. Antibody company f-star announced the formation of its second asset-centric vehicle, shortly after BMS took an option to acquire f-star's first asset-centric vehicle. Other leading UK and European VCs have been adopting the same asset-centric investment strategy, now a well-established tool in the biotech investors' toolbox where circumstances are right for it.
Confidence in IPOs increased earlier this year with the successful stock market debut of cat allergy company Circassia, which raised £200m in what is thought to be London's biggest ever biotech float. Other UK IPOs this year include Horizon Discovery, a Cambridge-based company that supplies human cell lines, and Tiziana Life Sciences, which is developing a breast cancer treatment based on research from Cardiff University.
Medical device companies continue to monitor the progress of the new medical devices regulations in the European Parliament. Medical apps have been an area of particular growth this year, and the MHRA has now published guidance on their regulation as medical devices (also see Mobile medical apps in Europe).
What lies ahead for the sector in 2015?
Undoubtedly there will be more M&A and consolidation, in particular pharma-biotech mergers will continue to increase as pharmaceutical companies increase collaboration with biotech companies across the board to leverage their expertise, products and operations to help overcome the productivity gap and promote future growth. The regulatory environment will continue to change, with - among other things - adaptive licensing of new medicines evolving in Europe.
There is every reason to believe that 2015 will be just as busy in the sector as 2014, if not busier.