So, here we are. Today is the day that many people are heading back into offices and labs, feeling as if it’s been a month since they left, or perhaps like it’s been about two days. I can’t decide between those two myself. I’m not going to pull a Neil DeGrasse Tyson on everyone and go on about meaningless arbitrary calendar units – he’d be better off if he didn’t – because I think that human beings need timeframes and points of reference. This is as good a time as any for taking stock. The Romans had the right idea with the month’s namesake Janus, simultaneously looking back on the past year and ahead to the new one.
2018? What I think a lot of people in the biopharma business will remember about the year is the sudden break in the stock markets. We’ve had a long bull market in biotech, and a lot of folks have made a lot of money. 2018 itself set records for IPOs. But for years, people have been looking over their shoulders (at least, the people who have seen more than one business cycle) knowing that sometime it would have to end. Did it? It’s hard to think otherwise, looking at what happened late in the year, but predicting the broader market is. . .not too easy. Full disclosure: I got out pretty much completely back in early June (not just out of biopharma stocks, out of the whole market). That made me look like an idiot for a few months but now, perhaps not so much of one. The economic uncertainties and political turmoil that prompted that decision have not gone away, not one bit. I have no idea if stocks will come roaring back over the next few days or weeks, but I rather doubt it.
Meanwhile, there were a record number of FDA approvals. Some of that is due to things being approved at earlier stages than they might have been at one time, but not all of it. And this comes after 2017’s rather high total as well, so it’s hard to deny that there’s been an upswing. I’ll try to do a full blog post just on this, but one good thing about it is that it’s not (all) a list of add-ons and retreads. There are companies on the list who have never brought a drug to market before, and there are therapeutic strategies that have never been tested in that market, either. Science has, in fact, been marching on.
And that’s one of the things that I like most about it. Looking to 2019, we really do have a lot going on these days – new modes of action, new tools to explore things with. Not all of this stuff is going to work out, but enough of it will to keep a lot of people very busy indeed (from the looks of things, I’ll be one of them). This does seem to be a great time to be doing drug discovery, and I’m glad to be doing it.
Overall prediction? 2019 is not going to be a quiet year. Not scientifically, not economically, not politically. There will be some quiet days here at the start of it, though, and those are a good time to get your thoughts together, clean old stuff out, and make room on your desk and in your head for some of the new stuff that’s coming. Here we go.