Drug discovery outsourcing market set to grow

Cost reduction and increased efficiency are key drivers

The drug discovery outsourcing market has grown significantly over the past two decades and will be worth US$16.21bn by 2015, according to a report by London-based business information provider Visiongain.

In 2010, the global discovery outsourcing market was valued at US$8.30bn.

A key market driver for outsourcing, the Drug Discovery Outsourcing: World Market 2011-2021 report says, is cost reduction. Others include the reduction of time-to-market and the increased efficiency afforded by outsourcing drug discovery.

The need to outsource is a result of the significant financial challenges facing the global biopharmaceutical industry. The cost of bringing a drug to market has steadily risen over the past 20 years. This has put immense pressure on drug discovery research as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies seek to minimise the number of leads they pursue and focus their attention on drug candidates with a high likelihood of reaching the clinic.

Dr Sharmarke Mohamed, healthcare industry analyst, says we are now witnessing one of the most uncertain periods in the history of the pharmaceutical industry.

‘Over the past two decades, more money has been pumped into r&d, yet the number of new chemical entities reaching the clinic has essentially flat-lined and in some therapeutic areas this has actually fallen,’ he says.

‘The industry is starting to realise that the top-down blockbuster model of pharma r&d will not deliver the drugs of the 21st century. Many of the leading companies are now beginning to embrace a more distributed model of pharma r&d where outsourcing to contract research organisations will be a key aspect of discovery and development operations.’

Mohamed suggests that strategic alliances with academic research laboratories will also be more common and the trend towards outsourcing to Asian countries such as China, India and Taiwan will continue.

The traditional one-size-fits-all approach to drug discovery is also no longer practical as advances in genomic sequencing and biomarker research are producing insights into the heterogeneity of many diseases. Instead, the concept of ‘targeted therapy’ will take centre stage.

Visiongain predicts that more drugs will be developed for particular patient groups who are more genetically predisposed to benefit from the therapy. Outsourcing certain functions of drug discovery will therefore be a common feature, especially in the areas of target identification and target validation.

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