This year has been an eventful one for the biotech world. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Dec. 15, 2021, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss the three most surprising biotech stories of 2021.
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Keith Speights: We're nearing the end of the year; a couple of weeks left. Looking back at 2021, were there any biotech stories that you think were the most surprising, whether the surprises were good or bad? What do you think were the biggest surprises in 2021 with biotech?
Brian Orelli: I think without a doubt, Biogen's (BIIB 1.05%) approval of Aduhelm was a big surprise to a lot of people. I think a lot of people didn't think that the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] would approve it based on the fact that it had stopped the clinical trial and then adjusted, and then looked at just part of the clinical trials that showed that the drug seemed like it was working.
Most investors assumed that the FDA would make them go back to the drawing board and do another clinical trial to prove that their hypothesis was right. But the FDA went ahead and approved it based on the fact that it reduces amyloid beta plaques, rather than actually using the data that Biogen was trying to use to prove that the drug actually helps improve cognition at the higher doses.
The other big surprise to me was the valuation increases for the COVID-19 vaccine companies. Moderna (MRNA 4.16%) is well off of its all-time highs, but it's still more than doubled from where it started this year when we already knew that the vaccines were successful. BioNTech (BNTX 1.63%) is up 76 percent over the last year.
I think the fact that we already knew that at the beginning of this year that the vaccines worked, so not much has actually changed in terms of their prospects, but their valuations have more than doubled or are up 76 percent. That seems sort of surprising to me.
Then the third thing I would highlight is a lack of big acquisitions or substantial acquisitions. We've had a few, Pfizer (PFE 1.04%)-Arena (ARNA) most recently. Then we've also had some head-scratchers like Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ 0.97%) acquiring GW Pharmaceuticals. That one didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But in general, I think that we haven't had that many acquisitions and so hopefully we'll get more in 2022.
Keith Speights: Biotech stock prices have fallen quite a bit overall. I mean, there obviously were some outliers. The biotech stocks are cheaper than they were for the most part, and a lot of big companies like Pfizer have much larger cash stockpiles. I think you're probably right that we'll see more deals being made in 2022. I could be wrong, but that's my guess is what's going to happen.