‘Use the coronavirus pandemic to be innovative in ways we can positively affect society’ was the message to lawyers in the life sciences sector from our CEO, Simon Levine, this morning. ‘Generosity through innovation’ would perhaps not have been at the top of board meeting agendas mere months ago, but bringing about radical change in broader society has never been of such critical importance to us and our clients.
Capital markets have suffered historic losses since COVID-19 took hold. As the pandemic hit and lockdown measures took effect in early March, the FTSE 100 dropped over 10% in a single day. Yet this article demonstrates how biotechnology (and life sciences firms more generally) are bucking this trend, not only remaining robust, but with many seeing exponential growth.
There is a twin track of challenges facing our clients: those in the short and medium term, and those in the long term. Commentary and government guidance seems to point to a prolonged period of social distancing measures in the short to medium term. Where previously we have faced great challenges in regulatory hurdles to support (a now seemingly critical) ‘telemedicine’ sub-sector, those regulations may be relaxed in view of health service pressures. Certainly, hospital waiting rooms, dentists and other health services cannot operate as usual with social distancing in place. It seems right that telemedicine is leaned on more prominently in the current climate, if for no other reason than to protect our health workers where the circumstances allow it.
In the longer term, firms will have to consider how best to take advantage of the market conditions. This will involve balancing efforts to deliver greater societal good with hedging the business to protect valuable healthcare expertise. As drug and vaccine trials continue, it will be particularly interesting to see how life science, and in particular pharma companies, manage the unprecedented demand they will inevitably face.
IPO’s may become far more common in the marketplace. The article describes a wave of IPO’s already having taken place in the past 24 months. A bolstered market could provide further opportunities in this direction. Access to valuable capital for those companies not yet listed may be necessary to fund the infrastructure needed to combat the pandemic. Drugs or vaccines will need to be produced on a scale previously unheard of. One need only look to PPE shortages to understand how vast the scale of production will be. Demand for PPE soared to years’ worth of supplies being sought, almost overnight.
Lastly, and on a personal note from the perspective of a Trainee Solicitor, our work has never felt more rewarding. As lawyers, our roles are undoubtedly cast into the shadows of the courageous workers in the NHS and healthcare bodies worldwide. However, we can take pride in knowing that our work is helping our clients in their efforts to overcome the COVID-19 crisis – be it through the development and supply of ventilators, or delivering the infrastructure necessary to healthcare systems and governments globally. The commercial world and society at large is undergoing a period of radical change, and I am proud to be part of a firm leading the way in seizing this opportunity to deliver solutions for the greater good.