Politics turns to the left


biotechAfter six years of a steady trade wind of Republican influence, the climate on Capitol Hill has suddenly shifted. For an industry like biotech, which always has a finger in the air to see what's blowing their way, there is reason for both comfort and concern. Comfort comes from seeing a majority of voters around the country clearly backing stem cell research, electing federal and state officials who are opting for science over fundamentalism.

Soon enough the Democrats now in control of the House and Senate are going to put President Bush's veto of the recent stem cell bill to the test and see if they now have the votes to push through new federal funds for the field. They might pull it off, but it will be tough. President Bush has made it clear that he isn't budging on this one inch, leaving a dwindling number of Republicans willing to defend a position that has grown clearly out of favor with the electorate. The concern is justified, too. Democrats are making drug costs an issue again, vowing to do everything they can to lower the bill.

What hurts Big Pharma's pocketbook hurts biotech too, because those are the pockets deep enough to provide the big buyouts and licensing deals we've been seeing. But anything likely to crimp Big Pharma's revenue is also likely to whet its appetite even more for new therapies to sell, so don't look for the bidding and buyouts to temper anytime soon.

Congress is also likely to add to the pressure for new legislation creating a regulatory pathway for biosimilars, or follow-on biologics, if you prefer the phrase employed by BIO. If you threaten a company's patents in this business, you'll drive down its value. But with the Democrats out of favor for so long now, Congress hasn't even held any hearings on this issue in the recent session. Insiders say you should look for a push, but most don't expect any legislative conclusions before 2008. But with the Europeans moving ahead on this, change is a comin'. It will, as always, be interesting to watch.

source - Fiercebiotech