Biotech Thrives Despite Arid Equity Market

Compiled By Deborah Austin Bucking a tough equity market, 2001 ranked as second-best financing year in the biotechnology sector's 30-year history -- with $12.9 billion invested -- says San Francisco-based life sciences merchant bank Burrill & Co. Biotech raised $4.6 billion in a vigorous fourth-quarter post-Sept. 11 rebound, doubling the third quarter's $2.2 billion. The upward trend likely will continue, says Burrill & Co. CEO G. Steven Burrill. "We've seen a flurry of M&A activity, the IPO window has reopened a little, and the venture-capital community has again developed an appetite for life-sciences deals," Burrill says. Also, he notes, the biotechnology industry has become creative in financing itself, using convertible debt, shelf registrations and PIPEs (Private Investment in a Public Entity). Meanwhile, a new subindustry has emerged: biodefense. Following Sept. 11 and the anthrax scares, stock prices have risen for many biotech firms involved in the manufacture of products ranging from portable contaminant-detection devices to edible vaccines. The best-ever financing year for biotechnology occurred in 2000, when $32 billion was raised. Burrill predicted that the biotechnology sector may raise as much as $20 billion in 2002.

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