Matthew Phipps: The biotech industry has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic given the essential role in developing novel therapies and vaccines to curtail the effects of the virus. That being said, many companies obviously had disruption to other projects, whether it be pre-clinical lab work, conducting clinical trials, or commercializing novel therapies. In particular, the industry has had to adapt to the stress placed on the healthcare system by COVID-19 patients, which resulted in limited resources available at major institutions to conduct clinical trials in areas outside of COVID-19. For most smaller biotech companies, the ability to efficiently enroll patients into clinical trials is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of their drug. The results of these trails often lead to significant value and flexion points for those companies and, therefore, it must be done in a timely manner. The absolute impact differs by company. But we have seen many companies make adjustments to their clinical trial plans including opening new clinical trial sites in geographies where the spread of COVID-19 is currently minimal or introducing telehealth or at-home visits to do clinical trial assessments.
Ultimately some of these aspects may help companies be more efficient in conducting clinical trials going forward. Beyond conducting the clinical trials itself, another essential aspect of the biotech industry is the ability to present those clinical trial results at major medical meetings where physicians, investors, and potential industry collaborators all gather to assess the new developments across the landscape. The larger meetings can often have upwards of 20 to 30,000 attendees from across the globe and, therefore, are a bit impossible to conduct at this time. Many of these meetings have opted to switch to a virtual format, with presenters sharing their slides from home across the globe, which overall has gone well and potentially expanded the audience for these presentations.
Additionally, this has had the benefit of reducing the need for travel across the country or globe multiple times a year, saving companies money on expenses for that. But there has been lost opportunities for conversations at posters or over coffee that often are the catalysts for business activities down the road. And so going forward it will be interesting to see how the industry and conferences adapt and if virtual options are still offered in addition to the in-person opportunities once the pandemic is over. This should allow companies to continue to balance expenses appropriately while still having the ability to present their data, and get the attention of both physicians, investors, and the larger industry community.