Over the past decade, pull incentives as a solution to the broken antibiotic market have been proposed to entice companies into antibiotic research and development. These incentives would essentially provide a market, and therefore a return on investment for pharmaceutical companies. Almost all of today’s inadequate antibiotic pipeline is provided by biotech and small pharma. All are threatened with loss of investor interest because of the failed marketplace and many are experiencing difficulty in raising funds either from public or private markets. One alternative to providing money to the “evil” pharmaceutical industry via a substantial pull incentive is to create publicly funded non-profit organizations or public-private ventures that would essentially replace the industry in antibiotic research, development and commercialization. Two proponents of this approach are Lord Jim O’Neill (of the O’Neill Commission or Antimicrobial Resistance Review fame) and Ramanan Laxminarayan of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy and of GARDP. Both, clearly, are key thought leaders in the area.
Things like gene editing, stem cells, immunotherapies and new types of biologics are now mega-trends in the pharmaceutical industry, widely covered in media, and I guess there is little doubt that biology is the next big thing in medicine. However, in this post I would like to outline several hot areas in small molecule drug discovery, suggesting a lot of untapped potential and investment prospects in this more “traditional” pharmaceutical research space.
Antibiotic R&D has had a particularly bad year starting with The Medicines Company who abandoned their antibiotic R&D efforts and sold their antibiotic assets to Melinta late last year right after getting approval for vabomere. This year both Sanofi and Novartis abandoned their antibiotic R&D efforts and divested their clinical and preclinical assets. Allergan, holder of the North American rights to ceftaroline, dalbavancin and ceftazidime-avibactam, also announced that they would divest their antibiotic assets. I have not heard that they were successful. Achaogen has now undergone two efforts at “restructuring” involving virtually eliminating all R&D and has essentially put up the “for sale” sign just after achieving approval for plazomicin. Finally, Melinta abandoned their antibiotic R&D efforts in the face of miserable sales of their recently launched antibiotics including delafloxacin and vabomere.
Being under ever-increasing pressure to compete in a challenging economic and technological environment, pharmaceutical and biotech companies must continually innovate in their R&D programmes to stay ahead of the game.
External innovations come in different forms and originate in different places -- from university labs, to privately held venture capital-backed startups and contract research organizations (CROs). Let’s get to reviewing some of the most influential research trends which will be “hot” in 2018 and beyond, and summarize some of the key players driving innovations.
Evaxion Biotech uses its machine learning-based platform to compare DNAs of tumor cells and DNAs healthy cells and identify mutations that are critical for the disease. This data is further used to design anticancer vaccines.