Top Global Biopharmaceutical Companies Inhabit a Diverse Industrial Landscape

Jackie Syrop

Biopharmaceutical medicines represent a growing share of the global pharmaceutical market, with $228 billion in global sales in 2016. As many of these products face the loss of patent protection, biosimilar versions of these molecules may now enter the market, causing a shift in market share and driving changes in pharmaceutical companies’ strategies.

Biopharmaceutical medicines represent a growing share of the global pharmaceutical market, with $228 billion in global sales in 2016. As many of these products face the loss of patent protection, biosimilar versions of these molecules may now enter the market, causing a shift in market share and driving changes in pharmaceutical companies’ strategies.

Writing in the June 8, 2017, issue of Frontiers in Pharmacology, Evelien Moorkens, a PhD candidate in the Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, and coauthors present a snapshot of the investment and development strategies used by the top 25 players in the global pharmaceutical market. The authors use publicly available data from 2015 global prescription drug sales; manufacturing plans; development programs; acquisition and collaboration agreements; and portfolios and pipelines of biosimilar, originator, and next-generation biopharmaceutical products (often modified versions of the companies’ own originator biopharmaceuticals) to identify and document which investment and development strategies are being adopted by the top pharmaceutical companies, and to inform their analysis of what they call a “diverse industrial landscape.”

The researchers identified the following 6 investment and development strategies in the global biopharmaceutical market:

  • Development of originator biopharmaceuticals
  • Investment in biotechnology
  • Development of next-generation biopharmaceuticals
  • Development of biosimilars
  • Investment in emerging countries
  • Collaboration between companies

Their analysis shows that nearly all of the top 25 biopharmaceutical companies invest in originator biopharmaceuticals and in biotechnology in general, but only half develop next-generation biopharmaceuticals, and only half invest in the development of biosimilars:

  • 23 invest in biotechnology by investing in their own development programs and infrastructure
  • 23 invest in biotechnology via acquisition of other biotechnological companies
  • 6 own only originator biopharmaceuticals
  • 8 invest in next-generation biopharmaceuticals and also in biosimilars
  • 5 invest only in next-generation biopharmaceuticals and not in biosimilars
  • 6 invest in biosimilars but not in next-generation biopharmaceuticals
  • Among the 50% that invest in the development of biosimilars, most have a biosimilar pipeline that is mainly focused on development of biosimilar monoclonal antibodies and, to some extent, on biosimilar insulins.

The researchers found that the companies do not focus on a single strategy, but are involved in multiple investment and development approaches. “A common strategy to market biopharmaceuticals is collaboration between companies,” the authors report. “These collaborations can as well be used to gain access in regions the company has less experience with.”

With patents now expiring for some of the biggest-selling monoclonal antibodies, the researchers say that the snapshot they have created highlights the interest of companies in investing in the development of these molecules and/or entering into collaborations to create access to these molecules. This study is the first to provide a systematic overview of investment and development strategies adopted by industrial players in the global biopharmaceutical market, according to the authors.