Attending BIO-Europe: the standout Biotech trends in 2023

24 November 2023


Recently I had the pleasure of being part of the team representing UCL Business at BIO-Europe 2023 in Munich. It was a fantastic chance to catch up with our existing partners, find collaboration opportunities, and get a general view of the current state of Biotech. These were the trends that stood out: 

Political-economic uncertainty:

Across all talks this was the running theme. Capital is still out there, with over $200bn in dry powder held by Big Pharma, but economic and political pressures have compressed average drug lifecycles and made returns on investment more challenging. 

Acquirers and investors have become more cautious, with reductions in valuations in public and private companies, and knock-on effects on earlier venture fundraising. The message was that positive data is not enough, and that exceptional data is instead needed.  

Emptying pipelines: 

More than 40% of Big Pharma’s current revenue is going off-patent in the next six years, and many pipelines may struggle to replenish this income. At the same time, technology licensing and partnerships are now occurring at earlier stages of the translational pathway. 

On the flip side, interest in previously neglected rare diseases is gaining momentum – over 10% R&D annual growth and more than half of new approvals in 2022 were for rare diseases. Other therapeutics that are generating excitement include Novo Nordisk’s Semaglutide and Lilly’s Terzepatide which have been approved for type 2 diabetes and weight loss. Their success has led to huge private demand for non-clinical weight loss, and demand has significantly outstripped supply. There’s also been a shift in focus towards ‘biologics’ – proteins, antibodies, nucleic acids, cell, and gene therapies. These currently make up almost 50% of pipelines compared to small molecule therapeutics. 

And as with so many other areas of innovation, AI is set to be a game-changer in drug development, and there was a lot of excitement about its potential to significantly reduce approval times for new drugs and achieve a 2-3x improvement in the success rate of clinical trials.  

One thing most people agreed on was that growing connections between stakeholders in biotech is vital – especially as we face an environment in which there is both more complexity and more opportunities for disruption.  

Meetings like BIO-Europe are more important than ever before in enabling diverse stakeholders to exchange ideas, intelligence and forge collaborations – and through this, maximise the potential to make the next big breakthrough.