Risk in Discovery-Stage Biotech Innovation

Grace Park, PhD Candidate at the Wharton School

Abstract: The main goal of this project is to enhance our understanding of what drives firm decisions in discovery-stage drug development, when risk of failure and variance in outcomes are highest. Specifically, this project contributes to existing literature on biopharmaceutical innovation, by testing whether the theory that larger firms pursue novel drugs is valid in the earliest phase of the drug development pipeline. Using data on early-stage VC funding and FOIA’ed biopharmaceutical alliances across thirty years, I use data-driven methods to examine the relationship between the novelty of biotech innovation and investor decisions at the earliest stage of drug development and contextualize its magnitude against other innovation characteristics. In doing so, I resolve a potential discrepancy between academic findings and industry observations.