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.
Pharmaceutical industry trends
According to a new research report by the market research and strategy consulting firm, Global Market Insights, Inc, the Healthcare Information Technology (IT) Market worth over $441.8bn by 2025. Favorable government initiatives for encouraging adoption of information technology in healthcare services will boost industry growth in the future. For instance, the U.S. government passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, providing funds worth USD 20 billion for setting up electronic health records. Such government initiatives should propel the Healthcare IT market growth.
Major companies on the scene include Second Genome, Enterome, and EpiBiome. In addition, several new startups have entered the field. Amongst the most active investors, Global Engage reports, are Seventure Partners, Flagship Pioneering and BioGaia. In fact there are some 120 companies investing in analyzing data relating to the human microbiome. To take one example, companies such as uBiome are developing genomic tests meant to identify and diagnose harmful microbes in the body.
In 1970-80s, the idea of virtual screening was regarded as a conceptual way to substitute costly and time-consuming experimental “screen-everything-you-have” approaches with a much faster and cheaper predictive modelling to cherry-pick only the best molecules for subsequent synthesis and validation in a lab. A great number of computational tools and approaches emerged, aiming at “pre-screening” new promising molecules, so called “hits”, or augmenting experimental screening programs to optimize efforts.
The first month of 2019 is not over yet, but there are already four major announcements about new research projects between large drug discovery corporations and smaller artificial intelligence (AI) companies -- this is more than the number of all similar announcements in the year 2014 combined -- only three.