What Can We Learn?


Henri Termeer, one of the founding fathers of biopharma, died last week leaving a superb legacy of achievement in the industry. Always a colourful figure, some of his most memorable comments have been published in BioWorld Today; here are three of the most prescient.

“We are underestimating what is happening here. This is a revolution, not just advances in medicine.” To members of a Joint Economic Committee during a summit hearing focusing on the promise of biotechnology, 1999

Investors who heeded that have reaped the benefit. The NASDAQ stock index started 1999 at 473 and ended 2015 at 3,540 (underestimating total potential returns as the index does not reflect any dividends paid or any stock spin-offs from original stock). The comparable figures for NASDAQ composite are 2,193 and 5,007.

“These products are worthwhile because they change a very serious disease in a very significant way, and thus the market will support it. Health care cost arguments come up in settings where in fact we are not able to treat effectively – in cancers, Alzheimer’s, etc., where the drugs are making incremental benefits. These therapies are expensive, and society has the right to ask questions. We explained for 15 years how the cost came about – we provide global access to these products and charge the same price worldwide, or provide it free. Genzyme has not shied away from the debate. We invited in the federal Office of Technology Assessment and journalists, and I testified at federal investigations. If you are not willing to have these open discussions, this will be a very tough business.” 2006

Even ten years ago, payer pressure was evident to Termeer. Many are only now waking up to this oncoming storm...

“We talk about volatility – dot-coms. That’s volatility. When Silicon Valley stocks went down last year, they were “unrecoverable.” Biotechnology, on the other hand is on a “remarkable, 25-year upward cycle.”. During a panel at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference, 2001

If that's true (and he's been right so often), we still have another nine years or so to enjoy!

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