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Five Top Takeaways from BIO International 2023

A couple of weeks ago, we saw the return of BIO International to Boston for the first time since 2018.

Since Boston is Evaluate’s home turf in the US, we headed to the gigantic Boston Convention Center to join 19,000 pharma, biotech and investment experts for four days of meetings, presentations, networking shindigs and sore feet. Unlike most the Evaluate team, this was my first BIO and I was on a mission to learn as much as possible in four days. Here are some of my top takeaways from BIO 2023.

  1. There is no shortage of interest in deal making
    2022 might have been a slow year for M&A – by value if not by count – but across the industry, there is plenty of impetus for deals to take place. EY’s recent report shows that 55% of biotechs only have enough money to continue for a maximum of two years. Add to this the rather jaded pipelines of some of the bigger players and stubbornly-shut IPO window, and you can see why the sessions like “Dealmaking in Uncertain Times”: were well-attended. By the way, we put together a special report for BIO on the state of dealmaking which you can check out here.
  2. “First in class, best in class” is the mantra
    I attended a dozen or so sessions across three days and I heard this in almost every panel where a big pharma company or large cap biotech appeared. This was always underpinned by talk of “good data” and “good science”. One of my favourite quotes was from Matt Gline, CEO at Roivant who commented “There’s no bad time to generate great data”. For biotechs looking to make deals, data that provides the potential for first in class or best in class is vital – and if don’t have compelling data on the commercials too, your deal won’t get off the ground.
  3. Flexibility is everything
    For companies that get the data right, there is huge opportunity. Panellists at every session; investors, big pharma and biotech talked about their openness to flexibility in deal structure. Equity, regional agreements, upfronts, milestones… the focus is on getting a deal done that suits both partners. For the bigger player, it’s about understanding what it will take to get an asset to market and where their expertise (and cash!) can be injected. The other side to this that was raised a lot was cultural and a shared vision between both parties in terms of who is bringing what to the party.
  4. The IRA means different things to different people
    Inevitably, there was much discussion of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in many of the sessions. Words like “concern”, “disappointed” and “problem” were thrown around by the big pharma players which is not surprising. However, for the smaller biotechs, there was a sense that the idea of appearing on the list of drugs subject to price negotiations would be a good problem to have. Marian Nakada of J&J’s investment arm noted that if companies are serious about curing a disease, the IRA shouldn’t have an impact, but it’s a bigger issue for companies looking at modest efficacy. The investors speaking felt it was certainly an issue for seed investors who may need to ask questions about small versus large molecules in the earliest stages of a company’s life.
  5. Industry is very protective of the Accelerated Approvals pathway
    One of the keynote sessions featured Robert M. Califf, FDA Commissioner, who talked about his views on the current pathway and the potential for lower reimbursement rates for drugs still waiting confirmatory trial results. In subsequent panels, there was concern about how this would impact investment decisions and the need for certainty on reimbursement. The smaller biotechs felt it simply wasn’t possible to meet the “great unmet need” of rare diseases (for which 95% have no treatment at all) without the AA pathway. Like the IRA, this is one that evokes quite a bit of debate and I suspect the comments at the bar in the evening were rather less measured than they were on stage!

There was so much more covered across the four days, but these were some of the recurring themes. A huge thank you to everyone who took part in the panels, keynotes and on the show floor (including the booth next to us who had puppies AND ice cream!) I’m very much looking forward to BIO 2024 – San Diego sounds splendid!


Carolyn Hall

Director, Content & Thought Leadership Marketing


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