Why VCs fell in love with pharma R&D in 2021

For many years, those inside the pharma industry have been telling the same old story about innovation: pharma is big, slow, and risk averse. Start-ups move fast and break things. That culture clash makes it hard to innovate the world of pharma at scale and with any rapidity.

And investment in pharma followed suit: pharma companies were looked at as stable assets — reliable but unlikely to balloon in value like a tech company might.

But like so many paradigms, COVID-19 bowled this one right over. The risk equation changed for things like decentralised clinical trials, with companies that lacked the capacity for these trials falling behind. And the search for a COVID-19 vaccine opened the industry’s eyes to the idea that innovation could happen quickly, and their processes needn’t be sacrosanct.

“When you stand back and look at that overall context, what seems to have happened is that pharma and investors have suddenly gone, ‘You know what, maybe you can do these quicker and faster without breaking things’,” says managing director of life sciences and healthcare for Silicon Valley Bank UK, Nooman Haque. “If you look across the entire R&D value chain, there are tools you can bring to bear to speed up particular instances.”

• Read the full article in pharmaphorum’s Deep Dive digital magazine