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Which biotechnology and companies continue to receive attention?

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The sudden COVID-19 epidemic has brought the largest recession to the global economy since World War II. A report so-called the target Guardian report released from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shows that the global GDP loss is twice that of the 2008 economic crisis. Data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington, found that the global vaccine coverage rate will drop to the level of the 1990s in 2020, which means the world regressed for 25 years in 25 weeks. IHME will also track and analyze the global epidemic data in real-time (1-2)


Biotechnology companies have accelerated the speed and scale of financing in 2020, and obviously, biotechnology is highly expected in the battle against the epidemic. In 2020, the scale of venture capital in the field of biotechnology reached 23 billion US dollars, an increase of about 60% compared with that in 2019. The number of initial public offerings (IPO) is about three times that of 2019, with half of the companies in preclinical or phase I clinical research. Although vaccine companies such as CureVec receive multi-channel funding from the government and NASDAQ, the cancer field is still the most concerning area of the capital. According to the data from BCIQ, the total investment in the field of cancer reached about $3.5 billion, accounting for about half of the investment, followed by the field of anti-infection with only about $600 million, and neurological and autoimmune diseases ranked third and fourth respectively. The analysis of the treatment field shows that the main investment directions of biotechnology companies include gene and cell therapy, mRNA therapy and vaccine, antibody medicine, and tumor diagnosis. In the field of gene therapy, the advantages of AavantiBio and Sarepta Therapeutics in the research and development of gene editing make them favored by venture capital. They have been invested more than 100 million US dollars in the initial stage, which will greatly help them in the research and development of gene editing and clinical therapy for rare diseases, But it's not easy for most startups to get that kind of investment. In terms of gene testing, China has thousands of gene testing companies, which mainly provide clinical gene sequencing and scientific research services. BGI is a representative in China, and its technical strength and business are without doubt leaders in the field. On February 26, 2021, BGI released its performance report for 2020. It is estimated that the company's revenue will reach 8.432 billion yuan, with a year-on-year growth of 201.09%, and its net profit will reach 2.080 billion yuan, with a year-on-year growth of 652.78%. The two core indicators of revenue and net profit will both reach a record high. This is mainly due to the increased market demand for COVID-19 detection kits and testing services, The company's "two-line layout" consisting of kit sales and "fire eye" laboratory has achieved remarkable results. BGI's genetic diagnosis kit for hereditary deafness has also been approved by the National Medical Products Administration. Many tumor detection kits are also important aspects of its business layout. However, its contribution to the huge performance in 2020 may not be as good as the COVID-19 detection kits. For many gene testing companies, it is not easy to make a profit. 23andMe plans to merge with SPAC VG Acquisition, UK. It has limited profits in the gene testing service itself, while its huge human genome data may be its greatest value.


In 2020, biotechnology companies and investments in China are worthy of attention, including fields of antibody medicine, precise tumor diagnosis, and immunotherapy, cell therapy (CAR-T, etc.). In terms of the number and scale of round investment, Chinese and American companies are getting closer and closer, and the areas of concern are also similar. According to the data from BCIQ, Chinese biotechnology companies with IPO in 2020 account for 34% of the world, with an increase of about 10% compared with 2019, and the US biotechnology companies account for 50% of the world, with a decrease of about 9% compared with 2019 (3).


At the same time, the real needs and the paying ability of patients can not be ignored. Tumor immunotherapy drugs, such as PD1 and PD-L1, are coming into the market together, bringing more choices to patients. At the same time, they are competing for market resources disorderly and homogeneously. After the enthusiasm ebbs, more immunotherapy drugs may come into the market again, but it is also time to reflect on the mechanism of immunotherapy itself. The COVID-19 has made BioNTech, a Turkey immigrant company, a hero. Since 2008, they have been researching and developing mRNA-based tumor vaccines, but they have not thought of the achievement of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, this does make the public and academic circles rethink the potential of mRNA technology. This may become the era of RNA medicine. Laronde, a start-up company, has just received a $50 million investment from Flagship Pioneering to develop a new type of circular RNA called endless RNA (eRNA). Based on the intracellular stability of eRNA, it can develop a series of drugs (4). Nexturn Bio has announced a 50% stake in RosVivo Therapeutics. RosVivo is a company that develops new miRNA drugs in Nevada. RSVI-301, developed by RosVivo is a kind of miRNA, which acts on pancreatic cells, adipocytes, and gastrointestinal tract cells, and can alter gene expression, cell phenotype and function to treat type II diabetes. Clinical studies showed that the decrease of glycosylated hemoglobin (Hb A1c) was more significant than Liraglutide or Semaglutide (5).


Biotechnology companies still have room for growth in the post-epidemic era. However, in addition to R&D, it is more challenging to discover the real needs of patients, establish a business model suitable for the local payment policy and system, set up an efficient business and R&D team, and guide the correct clinical medication. There is still a long distance from the laboratory to the patient, which requires chain innovation and systematic design.



1, IHME:

2, Goalkeepers reports:

3, Senior Melanie, et al. Nat Biotechnol. 2021;39:408-413.



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