At the American trade association’s latest CEO & Investor Conference, the board chair of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) Ted W. Love discussed US policies and speculated about the impact of the upcoming American election on the industry while affirming that biotech continues to thrive in spite of recent challenges.


From investors it’s clear that they are again looking for opportunities


A “Strong and Thriving Industry”

As one of the largest investor conferences focused on established and emerging biotech companies, the BIO CEO & Investor Conference is the place to be for anyone looking to get the pulse of the biotech industry.

BIO chair and industry veteran Ted W. Love, who began his career at Genentech back in 1992, is most certainly in a good position to evaluate the evolution of the industry and where it stands today. “We have been able to keep a strong and thriving industry,” he said during a fireside chat with Drew Armstrong of Endpoints News, maintaining a positive view of biotech’s outlook despite challenges such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the uncertainty of the upcoming US elections, the geo-political tensions that have led to the proposed Biosecure Act, and the industry’s recent investment slump.


Drug pricing and the IRA

Love spoke about the general perception of the biotech and pharma industry and how that relates to pricing. After being championed during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the US the industry appears to have gone back to being perceived as the culprit for exorbitant drug prices. “In our healthcare system, the thing that is most present for people is drug prices,” he said, arguing that politicians use this fact to get votes and blaming abusive co-pay systems.

Demonstrating an understanding of the motivators behind the IRA, the bill that has enables Medicare, the government-funded health insurer for over-65s, to negotiate directly with drugmakers, and the frustration around access, Love claimed that he was “ok with some aspects of the IRA,” admitting to the industry’s patent foul play. “We had an issue in our industry where some companies were trying to never make the prices of their drugs go down through very complex patenting,” he said. “That set up a lot of pressure to make that [practice] impossible.”

However, Love is not fully in agreement with the IRA either and defended certain modifications. “I am ok [with the fact] that after 12 years there is a step in place to make your price go down. I just think it needs to be 9 years for small molecules and I think orphan drugs should be protected forever as long as they remain in orphan indications.”


Election outcome: Same difference?

When asked about the US election in November of this year, Love seemed to say that neither of the candidates would offer a clear advantage for the industry, but “if you look at the legislation they have advocated for, Trump is probably worse.”

The worst thing for our industry would be the so-called reference pricing,” Love maintained, referring to Trump’s 2018 attempt at reducing prescription drug with a “Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices,” which included directing Medicare to begin to use reference pricing. “That would be worse than IRA,” the BIO chair claimed.

But Love was not confident in Biden’s prospective policies either. He referred to Biden’s push to lower the number of years drugs need to be on the market before Medicare can negotiate their prices, saying this would be “pretty disastrous too.”

The biotech leader said that the industry is fortunate in that within the US government there are “elected officials who truly understand how vital the industry is.”


Geo-political Tensions with China and the Biosecure Act

When asked about the strained relations between the US and China, he said he understood the factors driving proposed legislation such as the Biosecure Act that prohibits federal funding for biotech equipment or services produced or provided by certain Chinese service providers.

“I think all of us would support our government’s capacity to defend itself from inappropriate actions by companies that are working on behalf of the government,” he said, yet warned against the unintended consequences of such actions.

Love cited WuXi, one of the companies targeted, claiming that damaging the company would have a negative impact on patients, investors, and workers at the companies US-based facilities. “People are jumping on the anti-China rhetoric and get going on that and are not careful about possible outcomes.”


Recovery from the Biotech Downturn

Love was optimistic about the biotech sector’s rebound after its recent funding downturn. “I spend a reasonable amount of time with investors and with CEOs of companies and from the CEOs I’m hearing hope that the capacity to raise money is starting to become more robust. From investors it’s clear that they are again looking for opportunities.”


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