John Ransom

25 years ago there were roughly 700 biotech companies. Now, worldwide there are 3853 companies with about half of those concentrated in the United States. U.S. companies account for about 75 percent of all revenues in biotech. But not for long.

The combination of free markets and efficient capital markets compared to other countries has allowed the Unites States to lead the way despite some bumps and bruises along the way. Market crashes, like the ones experienced in 1987 and 2008 make even viable biotech companies with a good pipeline of drugs hard to finance because they always need money.            

Research and Development expenditures for new drug application in 2010 totaled $67.4 billion, according to Plunkett, in an industry that generated of about $81 billion in total revenues. That’s because biotech companies typically generate little revenue. Instead the companies rely on the stock markets to fund R&D. Then they usually sell out their discoveries to large pharmaceutical companies once they have successfully brought a drug to market, because biotechs are in the business of new research, not in the business of the distribution of new medicines. But, just like a wildcatter staking an oil claim, the profits are large for investors willing to be patient and work hard.

Lach once told me that investors who were willing to work hard to bring scientific insight into their investment model would necessarily do better than average.

But under Obamacare, and the other regulatory burdens on banking and investment, biotech will have a much harder time. In a quest to drive down costs in healthcare, there will be little tolerance for big profits, big losses or new discoveries in medicine under Obama’s prescription for single payer coverage for the entire universe.

Most other countries already operate under a system of nationalized healthcare and restricted capital markets.

Accordingly, investment banking activity for the biotech sector is much more robust in the United States than in the rest of the world. When the Atlantic’s Megan McArdle pointed this out, Obamacare shills like Ezra Klein of the Washington Post shouted her down, claiming that her hypothesis was a little more than a “thought experiment” because she lacked critical data to back up her assertion.

Well getting past the fact that most of Einstein’s most revolutionary concepts were little more than “thought experiments”- including the one for the photoelectric effect for which he won the Nobel Prize at a time when the Nobel Prize still meant something- here’s the hard data:

According to Indicium Data, LLC, a company that tracks biotechnology capital market trends, of the $6 billion in capital financings that happened worldwide for biotech in 2011 about $4.8 was raised in the United States. Twice as many dollars were raised in California and Massachusetts alone compared to the entire rest of the world. Of the 281 financings in biotech that happened worldwide, 211 of them happened in the US in 2011.

Experience from other countries has taught us that investors won’t continue to pour money into medical innovation when the incentive for innovation has disappeared.

Other countries like Australia can’t even raise a dime for biotech companies in capital markets.

It would be shame if the wonder drugs we rely on to help the elderly, the sick and our children stopped working wonders because a parochial and partisan prejudice against profits by liberals was allowed to outweigh the greater good.

John Ransom

John Ransom’s writings on politics and finance have appeared in the Los Angeles Business Journal, the Colorado Statesman, Pajamas Media and Registered Rep Magazine amongst others. Until 9/11, Ransom worked primarily in finance as an investment executive for NYSE member firm Raymond James and Associates, JW Charles and as a new business development executive at Mutual Service Corporation. He lives in San Diego. You can follow him on twitter @bamransom.

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