The commercial world is fighting to return to normality as it slowly emerges from various national lockdowns that resulted from Covid-19, and today we take a look at what impact this period might have had on the life science sector. 

For many companies, the rapid onset of Covid-19 will have forced a quick change into home working, and put pressures on their ability to distribute products or manage their supply chains. But for some, the crisis might also have been an opportunity – both to explore new ways of working and to provide SARS-CoV-2 related products to support research pursuits. 

When we initially took a look at the share prices of listed companies in the sector back in early April, the impact of the virus and early days of lockdown were significant. 

On the 16th March, the day that the US announced that bars, restaurants and cinemas would close, Abcam’s share price dropped by 27 per cent to a low of 1016, after trading at around 1400 in mid-January. Thermo Fisher Scientific also saw a 20 per cent drop from a share price of around 340 in January to 272, and Merck also saw a three month low.

However, when we checked in again in late May, it became clear that for most listed life science companies this was a temporary hit, and that they have, in the most part, fared well since. 

Thermo Fisher Scientific’s share price continues to rise

Thermo Fisher Scientific’s current share price as of this week is at an all-time high of 378.33, and while Merck’s is a little way off the levels it was at in January this year it has certainly recovered compared to a similar point in the calendar from last year. Abcam’s share price has seen more fluctuations, but these are consistent to its pre-Covid levels and the immediate dip at the beginning of lockdown does appear to have been short-lived. None of these companies have reduced or announced reductions in dividends.

And how about the private life science companies? Obviously it is harder to see how these might have been hit, but we caught up with Darcy Birse, Chief Commercial Officer from Cell Signaling Technology to see how the company has weathered the crisis. 

He said: “Cell Signaling Technology prioritised the acceleration and development to launch SARS-CoV-2 related products to facilitate new scientific demands supporting immediate research pursuits on diagnostics and vaccine investigations. We built a Virology product portfolio to investigate Viral Entry, Replication, Transcription, and Translation and Virus Detection and Innate Immune Activation, as well as support Mechanism of Action and cell signalling. These are investments that we are committing to to best support the scientific research community at this time. 

“The sector was hit when scientists had access to their research projects restricted due to lab closures. As many SARS-CoV-2 research teams continue to drive investigative science, we increased our efforts to innovate and supply critical reagents. As we learn more about this health crisis and its global impact, we’re able to support researchers by accelerating access to research reagents in territories that resume work according to their respective institutions or the company’s guidance or timelines.” 

Cell Signaling Technology prioritised its offering to focus on SARS-Cov-2 related products

We also caught up with Carl Ascoli, Chief Science Officer at Rockland Antibodies and Assays, who said: “We predict that if short to moderate supply chain stability issues continue to develop that certain sectors of the marketplace may adopt long term solutions to ensure access to critical reagents that may include a reversal of trends to outsource materials on a global scale.” 

Carl also added that: “A positive, but also challenging effect of the pandemic for suppliers is the huge demand for reagents to study and detect Sars-Cov-2, and just one example of this is more than 25 companies have explored the utility of Rockland’s polyclonal antibody to SARS Coronavirus Nucleocapsid protein (200-401-A50) and three major, global, diagnostic companies have incorporated the antibody into manufacturing and distribution worldwide.”

Of course, as in every other sector, colleagues across the life sciences are now also having to change the way that they work in a post-Covid world. From reassessing workspaces to making supply chains more resistant to future periods of lockdown, we’re interested to hear what solutions your company might have come up with. 

Speaking about changes at Cell Signaling Technology, Darcy added: “We are learning on a daily basis on how to work safely, effectively, and productively while ensuring our team’s well being.” 

Dr Andrew Chalmers, founder of CiteAb, said: “As at CST, our team has been adapting to the new guidelines, and working from home to ensure that we can adequately distance and keep everyone safe. It has certainly been a time of learning for us all, but we’ve been fortunate to be able to continue our work remotely from the office with little difficulty.

“It certainly won’t have been so easy for all in the sector, and over the next months many companies will be looking to the future with a new perspective. We hope to be able to support your business as it makes decisions about its strategy in light of the last few months, and hope that beyond everything else, you all keep healthy.” 

Here at Citeab we’ve launched a dedicated resource for those looking for Coronavirus research reagents, see https://www.citeab.com/covid-19/sars-cov-2-reagents

– Katrina and the CiteAb team