The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has made biotech companies the hot new technology sector as investor demand drives record IPOs, a panel of top investors told CNBC on Wednesday.
The biotech sector has drawn a lot of attention over the last two years during the pandemic, primarily because “we generated all the life-saving drugs, vaccines, and therapeutics that literally just saved the world,” Christiana Bardon, a portfolio manager at private equity firm MPM Capital, told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell at the “Delivering Alpha” conference.
Pfizer and Moderna’s highly successful Covid vaccines, for example, were developed in the U.S. in record time and use Messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology, which had never been cleared for use in humans before. More than 370 million of the doses have been administered in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I think, you know, we were always thought of being a little bit less interesting than our tech bros,” Bardon said. “But quite honestly, we’ve been doing the same work for cancer and all the other great unmet medical needs over the last 20 years since we started, since the modern biotech era started with the human genome sequencing revolution.”
Increased interest in the novel technology during the pandemic has driven a lot of capital into the sector, fueling record financings and IPOs, she said.
The iShares Biotechnology ETF, which tracks the biotech industry’s biggest players, has surged roughly 62% over the last two years, beating the performance of the S&P 500, which has jumped by about 47% over the same time period.
Alex Denner, Sarissa Capital Management’s founding partner and chief investment officer, said investors are pouring “enormous” amounts of money into the sector in anticipation of what the industry will do after the pandemic subsides.
“I see a lot of people very excited for the potential to sort of accelerate developing drugs much faster than what was considered reasonable a few years ago,” he said.
The heightened interest has made it “absurdly” difficult for some companies to find lab space or qualified researchers with clinical development experience, he said.
“I think you’re gonna see this overheating but in there will be some consolidation and purchasing there’ll be a lot of opportunity for fall within for there,” he added.
Bardon said she expects areas such as cancer research could benefit.
“Not only can we understand the mutations that are driving people’s cancers, but we can develop drugs specifically for those mutations,” she said. “That also means clinical trials can be more efficient as we only identify patients with no mutations to take through the clinical trial process.”