TECHNOLOGY: Buyer beware when biotech doesn’t live up to its promise

There have been many miracles from biotech but there have also been some rash promises made that haven’t panned out. One of these is featured in this Boston Globe story about Biopure.  Biopure is a company that has been trying to approve and market a substitute blood product. Given the problems with infections in the blood supply and the interest from the military in transportable blood with a long room temperature shelf life,  Biopure’s prospects looked good.   Back in 2001 I heard a stock analyst, who’s name–luckily for him–I’ve forgotten, pitching the stock at a pharma conference. The price was around $25 a share, and when the FDA approved its product Hemopure it was sure to go into the stratosphere.  But the approval never came, and the Street.com ran a series of articles (correctly) forecasting that the approval never would come and the company would run out of cash. Sadly for me, I’d listened to the analyst and bought in before I read the Bears’ version of events.   I keep the few hundred now almost worthless shares in my portfolio to remind me that a) analysts are there to sell stock trades and not tell you reality, and b) that it’s better to take a small loss than a big one! While my minor financial woes are good for a giggle at this distance, Biopure’s story is a salutary reminder that medical miracles are risky and demanding, and that the world of the genome and biotech which promise so much are not certain to deliver in every instance.

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