This week saw the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. He enters his term at a time of great challenges on multiple fronts – including economic, geopolitical, environmental and healthcare. Specifically, relating to healthcare,
in his inauguration speech he states:
"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost."
Encouraging sentiment, but of course, you can never take any politician's words from a speech on face value. And we're all aware of the many challenges facing healthcare and biotech, from very difficult financing through private and public markets, through to likely new and stiffer regulation on drug pricing and downward pricing pressure from overburdened governments. True to form, the industry is already adapting to this new environment, utilizing its entrepreneurial and survival instinct to full effect – through greater consolidation between biotech-biotech and pharma-biotech, and restructuring (highlighted in G. Steven Burrill's industry predictions for 2009, and a recent FT article: Pharma buying spree could swallow biotechs).
But where Obama provides a break from the past is the one magic ingredient he's brought all the way from Martin Luther King Jnr's speech in August 1963, "I Have a Dream." That ingredient is change. With change comes enthusiasm, hope, energy, creativity and effort; these are exactly the character traits necessary for building biotech. And as that change is being led from the front, it creates a domino effect. It helps to inspire industry leaders to develop more effective and sustainable business models, and scientists to find new and better therapeutics and healthcare solutions.
So, while no one is denying the difficulties ahead, a change in sentiment can go a long way.