Industry optimistic about future of biologics, finds survey

Economist Intelligence Unit questions more than 250 biopharma executives about their drug launch plans

Nearly half (48%) of the 254 global biopharmaceutical executives quizzed in a survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit on how their companies will manage the changing biopharma landscape are developing, or will develop gene and cell therapies.

For the EIU study, The Changing Biopharma Risk Equation, sponsored by Merck, respondents came from Europe (31%), North America (30%), Asia (29%) and ROW (10%). Executives at companies of all sizes responded, with 50% coming from biopharmaceutical firms with global revenues of less than $500m, 37% from organisations with $500m to $5bn in annual revenues, and 13% whose annual global revenues exceed $5bn.

The survey found that companies are pursuing different classes of new biopharmaceuticals (also known as biologics) as part of their expansion.

These drugs fall into two distinct categories: large-molecule biologics, such as monoclonal antibodies used to treat chronic diseases including diabetes, cancers and rheumatoid arthritis; and new cutting-edge therapies such as gene and cell therapies. Therapies in this category are still largely in experimental phases and not readily available to the market. However, expectations of widespread adoption are at the core of many visions of personalised medicine.

'In response to the uncertainty and disruption facing the biopharmaceutical industry, Merck has moved beyond old risk-management models and has adopted and is applying new strategies at the earliest stages of development and seeing them through to commercialisation,' said Udit Batra, Member of the Merck Executive Board and CEO, Life Science.

The survey also revealed that biopharmaceutical firms plan to add production and development capacity in all global regions in the next five years, with many planning to enter South Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan.

Although the industry is expanding, regulatory uncertainty and a lack of investment funding for growth plans top the list of risks that might disrupt this growth in the next five years, closely followed by willingness and ability to pay for drugs, patent expiration and the emergenece of drug categories not within companies' pipelines.

Nevertheless, 80% of executives who responded to the survey are 'highly optimistic' about their company's ability to bring new drug product to market over the next five years and to develop a competitive strategy that positions them well over the next five years (65%).

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