2024: A Promising Year for Biotech’s Revival


January 15, 2024

After facing a tumultuous phase, the biotech industry stands on the cusp of a potential resurgence in 2024. The sector, initially buoyed by the investment rush for COVID-19 vaccine development, later experienced a downturn as demand for these vaccines declined, impacting revenue streams. Additionally, a decrease in FDA approvals, partly due to staff shortages, hindered the industry’s progress. But with approvals bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels by early 2023, signs of a revival are emerging. Could 2024 mark the turnaround year for biotech?

Challenges in the Biotech Industry

The industry navigated a challenging financial terrain. Venture Capital (VC) investments, crucial for new biotech ventures, diminished as investors shifted focus to more substantial, quality investments. Despite this cautious approach, VC fundraising showed resilience, signalling a continued interest in biotech. The sector also grappled with the potential impact of stricter drug pricing policies under the Inflation Reduction Act, affecting the monetisation of new innovations.

Nonetheless, the biotech sector’s inherent financial stability, innovation-led growth, and a robust pipeline of assets moving into clinical stages have been its strengths. The industry also experienced a surge in shareholder activism and mergers and acquisitions (M&A), featuring notable deals.

Looking ahead to 2024, the biotech sector seems poised for recovery. This optimism is further supported by an improving Initial Public Offering (IPO) landscape. With these elements at play, the biotech industry may experience a resurgence, characterised by heightened investment, breakthrough innovations, and a rejuvenated market environment.

2023 FDA Approvals Herald Biotech’s Growth Trajectory for 2024

The biotech industry is poised for a resurgence in 2024, thanks in large part to a significant uptick in novel drug approvals by the FDA in 2023. According to Reuters, this remarkable increase – nearly 50% compared to the previous year – marked a pivotal shift. In 2023, the FDA greenlit 55 novel therapies, a substantial rise from the 37 approvals in 2022 and more in line with the average annual rates of 45 to 50 new drug approvals.

This array of approvals signals a reinvigorated momentum in the biotech sector. High-impact therapies receiving FDA approval included Eli Lilly’s obesity treatment Zepbound and Eisai and Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi. Additionally, 2023 was notable for the FDA’s endorsement of five gene therapies, such as the groundbreaking CASGEVY from Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics.

These approvals are indicative of a larger pattern of innovation and progress within the biotech industry. They reflect not only a response to current healthcare demands but also advancements in scientific understanding of diseases and their treatment targets. This positive reception from the industry suggests heightened investor interest and commitment to biotech companies.

With 2023 marking a return to high levels of FDA activity, it paints an optimistic picture for continued robust approval rates in 2024, signalling a strong path forward for biotech growth.

A Year of Hope for the IPO Market

The outlook for Initial Public Offerings (IPO) in the biotech sector is particularly bright for 2024. Following a slump, analysts at Bernstein anticipate a resurgence for biotech firms and their IPOs in 2024, coinciding with an expected easing of high-interest rates.

The S&P Biotech ETF (XBI), an important gauge of sector performance, exhibited a promising 7.6% increase in 2023. This upward movement marks a significant turnaround from the previous year’s decline and signals a potential recovery for biotech in 2024. This uptick instils optimism for the IPO market, which experienced a downturn in 2023, generating only $2 billion from nine IPOs valued over $50 million. This was a stark contrast to the more than a hundred IPOs in 2021, totaling over $15 billion. Bernstein analysts are hopeful that 2024 will be a pivotal year for the IPO market, poised for positive growth.

Echoing this sentiment, PwC analysts project a “gradual reopening” of the biotech IPO window in 2024. This rebound is expected to favour companies backed by robust clinical data, indicating a more discerning yet hopeful stance from investors towards biotech ventures.

2024: A Dynamic Year for M&A in Biotech

As we build upon the momentum from 2023, the biotech sector is poised to maintain robust merger and acquisition (M&A) activity into 2024. PwC predicts deal values could range between $225 billion and $275 billion, suggesting a pathway for biotech recovery in the coming year. This vigorous M&A trend reflects the sector’s resilience and adaptability amidst economic headwinds and market shifts.

In the U.S., the Inflation Reduction Act is set to significantly influence biotech business strategies. With its focus on federal regulations and drug pricing, this legislation will shape the strategic choices of biotech firms. Smaller companies, in particular, may become attractive acquisition targets due to funding challenges intensified by economic factors such as rising interest rates.

Looking Forward with Optimism to 2024 in Biotech

Despite previous challenges, including investment volatility and regulatory obstacles, there is a prevailing sense of optimism. Indications of industry recovery are evident, with increased FDA approvals and a potential resurgence in the IPO market. M&A activity is anticipated to be a key driver, symbolising a strategic move towards fostering innovation and growth.

However, the biotech landscape remains intricate, influenced by economic pressures and evolving technological advancements. The sector’s ability to adeptly navigate these challenges will be pivotal for 2024 to be marked as a year of recovery in biotech. The outlook is hopeful, but success will hinge on sustained adaptability and strategic planning. As the industry progresses, these factors will be essential in shaping a resilient and prosperous biotech sector in the year ahead.

Drive Growth with the Right Leadership in 2024

As the biotech industry anticipates a promising year in 2024, we stand ready to play a pivotal role in this revival. With the industry poised for growth through increased FDA approvals, a rejuvenating IPO market, and dynamic M&A activities, the demand for visionary leadership and strategic expertise in biotech has never been greater.

We are uniquely positioned to identify and place the trailblazers who will navigate these exciting developments and lead the biotech sector into a new era of innovation and success. As we embrace the optimism of 2024, we are committed to connecting the brightest minds with the companies at the forefront of biotech’s resurgence, ensuring that the industry’s potential is fully realised.

Find out more about our executive search services on our website, or alternatively, feel free to give our team a call to discuss your individual needs.

Published on 15-01-2024