Disgraced biotech investor Woodford plans revival amid UK life science boom

Disgraced investor Neil Woodford plans to start a new biotech investment firm as he seeks to capitalise on a booming UK life sciences industry and rebuild his reputation following the collapse of his previous fund.

According to press reports, Woodford will be chief investment officer of Woodford Capital Management.

The news was first reported by UK newspaper, the Telegraph and has been confirmed by Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg, a spokesperson said that the new firm will be based in Jersey and London and  “high net worth investors”.

It will be focused on the biotech sector including investments that were once held in Woodford’s flagship fund, which was closed in 2019.

Woodford invested in small and even unlisted biotechs and initially earned him the nickname the “Oracle of Oxford” because of his early success.

But the strategy backfired in the long run because of a fallow period in the market, leaving him unable to pay back investors who wanted to withdraw their investment.

Bloomberg noted that Woodford’s comeback is subject to an ongoing investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority, which could forbid him from investing.

It’s easy to understand the rationale behind the move as the UK biotechs that Woodford could be targeting have enjoyed a renaissance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Investors have poured into the pharma and life sciences industry during the crisis and the UK biotech sector has benefited as a result.

Figures reported by the BioIndustry Association at the beginning of this month showed investment in UK biotech soared to £2.8 billion ($3.8 billion) in 2020, from a level of £1.3 billion in 2019.

This made 2020 a record year, exceeding the previous investment high of £2.2 billion in 2018, according to the yearly report from the BIA and Clarivate.

According to the Telegraph, Woodford is looking for companies that could develop into successful biotechs following in the footsteps of UK rising stars such as Immunocore, Kymab, Synairgen and Nanopore.

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