Our Year In Review

From surviving to thriving as 2021 takes the reins from 2020

In a year turned on its head by the pandemic, witnessing this month the unprecedented roll out of a novel coronavirus vaccine, with more vaccines on the horizon, December has become a time of hope, a rare and precious commodity, to add to the more traditional gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

Looking back nostalgically to January 2020 at JP Morgan in San Francisco, the traditional start of the life sciences calendar, seems a lifetime away. Who could have imagined that ‘JPM’ would be virtual in 2021 and we would all be saving substantial wear of our shoes and umbrellas!  

However, while Covid-19 has cruelly grabbed the headlines, the healthcare industry has flourished – rising to the challenge of creating solutions including vaccines, treatments, testsand digital health applications, helping lead the world back to health.

Like so many, we learned early at Optimum that we had to adapt quickly to the new normal (whatever that is!) and moved to a digital working platform. This helped support our clients to  power up their digital strategies providing compelling content from presentations to socia media, to virtual roundtables. We relaunched our popular newsletter which has been a brilliant way to stay connected with the industry, and our readers across the globe.   

Deals, deals, deals 

In May, Optimum ran a survey of European Venture Capital (VC) investors about the impact of Covid-19 on the Healthcare Sector, with responses from an impressive 24 of the most influential European VCs, collectively investing approximately EUR 15.5 billionBack in May investors were positive about life sciences and, since then, this has been borne out with a record-breaking year for fund raises. The life sciences sector should continue to flourish and we expect to see further funding and M&A activity, bringing much cause for hope in 2021.  

Optimum has been right in the thick of it, supporting a flurry of Series A and B rounds covering therapeutic areas as diverse as Covid, Cancer and CNS.

The public markets for healthcare have fared well too with a busy IPO market and plenty of secondary fundraises. We were thrilled to see Calliditas list on US NASDAQ and Verona Pharma’s financing, with both raising oversubscribed rounds. 

We are also very proud of the work we did this year with incubators and accelerators BaseLaunch and BioInnovation Institute (BII) which help early-stage start-ups with knowledge and funding and in bridging the gap between academia and business.

In addition our Venture clients have also successfully raised new funds, seen portfolio companies list on public markets, exits through acquisitions by pharma and numerous investments in new companies and therapeutics – a very busy year for them too.

All told, our biotech, medtech and healthtech clients’ have raised over  USD 10 billion in 2020, a record year for biopharma financings.

Notable M&A this year includes Sanofi acquiring Kiadis Pharma for EUR 308 million, Boehringer Ingelheim’s acquisition of NBE-Therapeutics for EUR 1.18 billion and Arix Bioscience’s first exit – VelosBio’s acquired by Merck for USD 2.75 billion in cash.

All these transactions were instrumental in cementing our first inclusion in Mergermarket’s PR Advisors Global & Regional League Tables for H1 2020.  

Is this the real life? 

Our alternate universe, including virtual events, continues to not only survive, but positively thrive, and Optimum’s 12th Annual Healthcare Conference was an enjoyable success, with brilliant speakers and attendeesmanaging to capture moments of serendipity which are so often missing these days.  

We were also delighted to have clients nominated for prestigious awards including Mediscience and SCRIP. It is credit to the industry that organisations continue to celebrate the successes of our sector despite not being able to host the wellloved awards dinners. 

On a personal note, this has been a year of joys and losses. Our team has grown with new colleagues who bring additional skills and experience to Optimum. However, we were devastated by the passing of our co-founder and colleague Niall Kirk a few months ago. His valuable guidance and enduring friendship are much missed. On a positive note, we celebrated a new birth and an engagement – we are grateful for these life affirming moments of great happiness.  

This year we have supported Cure Leukaemia and the UN Refugee Council and would like to take the opportunity to thank and congratulate them for their valiant work in these most difficult times. We also want to wave the flag for the efforts of the NHS Charities Togetherwho we will be supporting this festive season. While we may have stopped clapping for our frontline workers on Thursdays, we continue to salute their bravery and sense of service.  

Wishing you all a happy and safe end of the year, as we leave 2020 behind and head into 2021, where we look forward to seeing and meeting in person!  

Stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season and New Year 

The Optimum Team