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US Biopharmaceutical Finance and the Sustainability of the Biotech Boom

Lazonick, William and Tulum, Öner (2010) US Biopharmaceutical Finance and the Sustainability of the Biotech Boom. [Industry Studies Working Paper:2010-01]



In the decade before the current economic crisis, the US biotechnology industry was booming. In a 2006 book, Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech, Gary Pisano implies that, given the 10-20 year time-frame for developing biotech products and the lack of profitability of the industry as a whole, the US biotech boom should not have happened. Yet the biotech industry has received substantial funding from venture capital firms as well as from established companies through R&D alliances. Why would money from venture capitalists and big pharma be flowing into an industry in which profits are so hard to come by? The purpose of this article is to work toward a solution of what might be called the “Pisano puzzle”, and in the process to provide a basis for analyzing the industrial and institutional conditions under which the growth of the US biopharmaceutical (BP) industry is sustainable. One part of the answer has been the willingness of stock-market investors to absorb the initial public offerings (IPOs) of a BP venture that has not yet generated a commercial product, and indeed may never do so. The other part of the answer is that the knowledge base that BP companies can tap to develop products comes much more from government investments and spending than from business finance. Indeed, we show that, through stock buybacks and dividends, established corporations in the BP industry have been distributing substantial sums of cash to shareholders that may be at the expense of R&D. We use the framework that we have developed for analyzing the sustainability of the US BP business model to pose a number of key areas for future research, with an emphasis on the implications of the financialization of this business model for the generation of safe and affordable BP drugs.

Industry Studies Series #:2010-01
Item Type:Industry Studies Working Paper
Uncontrolled Keywords:industry studies, industry studies working paper, industry studies association, industry studies research
ID Code:161
Deposited By:Mr Robin Peterson
Deposited On:25 Feb 2010 13:48
Last Modified:07 Jun 2010 10:45

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