The new year means that the Hambrecht & Quist Life Sciences Conference is upon us once again, launching the next 12 months of attempts by companies to persuade the Street to pay attention, because this time, by George, we've really figured it out.

While we would like to see the end of the tower of BioBabel, experience tells us not to expect the kinds of stories demanded by the investment community. And, while we also hope this is not true, we would expect many of these now-predictable presentations to turn away those investors who still linger by the sector. Like the Democrats, biotech companies have the stern task of proving that something really has changed - and, like the Democrats, it's going to be hard to believe that miracles can occur overnight.

Fund managers clearly believe that this is the riskiest time - possibly in the history of the industry - to invest in biotech. And even the most optimistic long-term investors predict that 1995 will not be better than 1994 on Wall Street.

Hard scrutiny

As recounted in this week's Buyside View cover story, the Street has come to the following conclusions: