Big Phar­ma’s woe­ful num­bers on drug R&D just got even worse

Col­in Ter­ry, De­loitte

The an­a­lysts at De­loitte con­tin­ue to cal­cu­late a dwin­dling re­turn for Big Phar­ma’s R&D dol­lars. Their lat­est num­ber crunch­ing for the world’s top 12 bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies con­cludes that ROI on their in­vest­ment cash has shrunk to 3.7%, the low­est lev­el yet af­ter hit­ting 10.1% in 2010.

What’s killing these com­pa­nies’ num­bers, De­loitte says, is that while de­vel­op­ment costs on new drugs have plateaued at about $1.5 bil­lion on each pro­gram, their rev­enue keeps falling. There’s been an 11.4% drop in rev­enue year-on-year over 6 years, which has now fall­en to $394 mil­lion in av­er­age peak an­nu­al sales.

A hunt for any sil­ver lin­ing in this new re­port can be des­per­ate­ly hard. The De­loitte guys — Col­in Ter­ry and Neil Less­er — con­clude that the num­ber of block­busters pro­duced by this crowd has dwin­dled by more than half, so they keep spend­ing big in search of small­er drugs. And as they fo­cus more and more on their own pipeline, they are ig­nor­ing the ex­ter­nal pro­grams that can de­liv­er bet­ter re­turns — set­ting up a push, per­haps, for a surge in M&A as the re­al­iza­tion sinks in that they are on the wrong track.

The best ap­proach, they add, is to think and act like a biotech. Small­er biotech groups sim­ply do bet­ter than Big Phar­ma at R&D. And the big com­pa­nies that stay fo­cused on core dis­eases do far bet­ter than the com­pa­nies that keep shift­ing R&D spot­lights.

Neil Less­er, De­loitte

It’s hard to over­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of R&D spend­ing by this group, and the need to get it right. My lat­est as­sess­ment con­clud­ed that the top 15 com­pa­nies spent $87 bil­lion on re­search last year, the li­on’s share of the glob­al R&D bud­get. And this year we’re look­ing at a sharp, painful drop in new drug ap­provals at the FDA, now run­ning at less than half of last year’s to­tal.

Less­er’s bot­tom line: Change now or court ex­tinc­tion.

“With phar­ma R&D re­turns con­tin­u­ing to fall, our analy­sis shows that the cur­rent mod­el is not sus­tain­able.  What is clear is that fun­da­men­tal change may no longer be an op­tion, but a ne­ces­si­ty for the in­dus­try.”

Don’t look for the glob­al drug mar­ket to pro­vide any sud­den re­lief. Not in this price-sen­si­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

“Pric­ing is per­haps the most pub­li­cized chal­lenge, with po­lit­i­cal and pub­lic scruti­ny on the top­ic in­ten­si­fy­ing,” says Ter­ry. “The ma­jor­i­ty of com­pa­nies are strug­gling to achieve his­tor­i­cal peak sales de­spite con­tin­u­ing to launch many new prod­ucts.  They are al­so in­creas­ing­ly look­ing for re­turns from treat­ments in small­er pa­tient groups.  As costs per prod­uct re­main high, sales pro­jec­tions de­cline, and giv­en it now takes the in­dus­try over 14 years to launch a drug, re­al ques­tions should be raised about pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and re­turns on in­no­va­tion.”

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data is messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data is exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

David Lockhart, ReCode Therapeutics CEO

Pfiz­er throws its weight be­hind LNP play­er eye­ing mR­NA treat­ments for CF, PCD

David Lockhart did not see the meteoric rise of messenger RNA and lipid nanoparticles coming.

Thanks to the worldwide fight against Covid-19, mRNA — the genetic code that can be engineered to turn the body into a mini protein factory — and LNPs, those tiny bubbles of fat carrying those instructions, have found their way into hundreds of millions of people. Within the biotech world, pioneers like Alnylam and Intellia have demonstrated just how versatile LNPs can be as a delivery vehicle for anything from siRNA to CRISPR/Cas9.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 120,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

No­vo CEO Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen on R&D risk, the deal strat­e­gy and tar­gets for gen­der di­ver­si­ty

 

I kicked off our European R&D summit last week with a conversation involving Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen. Novo is aiming to launch a new era of obesity management with a new approval for semaglutide. And Jørgensen had a lot to say about what comes next in R&D, how they manage risk and gender diversity targets at the trendsetting European pharma giant.

John Carroll: I’m here with Lars Jørgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk. Lars, it’s been a really interesting year so far with Novo Nordisk, right? You’ve projected a new era of growing sales. You’ve been able to expand on the GLP-1 franchise that was already well established in diabetes now going into obesity. And I think a tremendous number of people are really interested in how that’s working out. You have forecast a growing amount of sales. We don’t know specifically how that might play out. I know a lot of the analysts have different ideas, how those numbers might play out, but that we are in fact embarking on a new era for Novo Nordisk in terms of what the company’s capable of doing and what it’s able to do and what it wants to do. And I wanted to start off by asking you about obesity in particular. Semaglutide has been approved in the United States for obesity. It’s an area of R&D that’s been very troubled for decades. There have been weight loss drugs that have come along. They’ve attracted a lot of attention, but they haven’t actually ever gained traction in the market. My first question is what’s different this time about obesity? What is different about this drug and why do you expect it to work now whereas previous drugs haven’t?

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (via Getty images)

UP­DAT­ED: FDA slaps As­traZeneca's MCL-1 can­cer drug with a hold af­ter safe­ty is­sue — 2 years af­ter Am­gen axed a trou­bled ri­val

There are new questions being posed about a class of cancer drugs in the wake of the second FDA-enforced clinical hold in the field.

Two years after the FDA hit Amgen with a clinical hold on its MCL-1 inhibitor AMG 397 following signs of cardiac toxicity, AstraZeneca says that regulators hit them with a hold on their rival therapy of the same class.

The pharma giant noted on clinicaltrials.gov that its Phase I/II study for the MCL-1 drug AZD5991 “has been put on hold to allow further evaluation of safety related information.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 120,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sur­geons suc­cess­ful­ly at­tach pig kid­ney to a hu­man for the first time, us­ing tech from Unit­ed's Re­vivi­cor

In a first, researchers reportedly successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human without triggering an immediate immune response this week. And the technology came from the biotech United Therapeutics.

Surgeons spent three days attaching the kidney to the patient’s blood vessels, but when all was said and done, the kidney appeared to be functioning normally in early testing, Reuters and the New York Times were among those to report. The kidney came from a genetically altered pig developed through United’s Revivicor unit.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 120,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Leen Kawas (L) has resigned as CEO of Athira and will be replaced by COO Mark Litton

Ex­clu­sive: Athi­ra CEO Leen Kawas re­signs af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion finds she ma­nip­u­lat­ed da­ta

Leen Kawas, CEO and founder of the Alzheimer’s upstart Athira Pharma, has resigned after an internal investigation found she altered images in her doctoral thesis and four other papers that were foundational to establishing the company.

Mark Litton, the company’s COO since June 2019 and a longtime biotech executive, has been named full-time CEO. Kawas, meanwhile, will no longer have ties to the company except for owning a few hundred thousand shares.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL, foreground) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

Sen­a­tors back FDA's plan to re­quire manda­to­ry pre­scriber ed­u­ca­tion for opi­oids

Three Senate Democrats are backing an FDA plan to require mandatory prescriber education for opioids as overdose deaths have risen sharply over the past decade, with almost 97,000 American opioid-related overdose deaths in the past year alone.

While acknowledging a decline in overall opioid analgesic dispensing in recent years, the FDA said it’s reconsidering the need for mandatory prescriber training through a REMS given the current situation with overdoses, and is seeking input on the aspects of the opioid crisis that mandatory training could potentially mitigate.

Bris­tol My­ers pledges to sell its Ac­celeron shares as ac­tivist in­vestors cir­cle Mer­ck­'s $11.5B buy­out — re­port

Just as Avoro Capital’s campaign to derail Merck’s proposed $11.5 billion buyout of Acceleron gains steam, Bristol Myers Squibb is leaning in with some hefty counterweight.

The pharma giant is planning to tender its Acceleron shares, Bloomberg reported, which add up to a sizable 11.5% stake. Based on the offer price, the sale would net Bristol Myers around $1.3 billion.

To complete its deal, Merck needs a majority of shareholders to agree to sell their shares.