For European biotechnology, 2022 was a year of contraction. Disclosed equity investments in European firms engaged in the discovery and development of therapeutics totaled $6.782 billion, down 55% on the previous year’s record-breaking tally of $15.193 billion. Last year’s tally is the worst performance since 2017 and is well below the totals achieved during the two years immediately preceding the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered a boom in biotech investing.
In the fourth year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization is monitoring two omicron subvariants, BA.5.2 and BF.7, causing a surge of COVID-19 cases in China. It also is keeping abreast of rising XBB.1.5 cases and declining BQ.1 cases in Europe and the U.S., where hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks. Global cases in the last month are trending below the same timepoints in 2020 and 2021, and deaths are significantly down, suggesting a move toward an endemic stage.
Investment in the fourth quarter of 2022 was dismal in Asia Pacific, as the global venture community focused on preserving capital. And the region faced other challenges throughout the year, as leaders in Australia and across Asia became acutely aware of the vulnerabilities in their supply chains. But the year also saw some big deals and collaborations involving companies across Asia Pacific, along with advances in regenerative and digital medicine.
U.S. FDA approvals in 2022 are down by 31.3% compared with last year and clearances for new molecular entities are at the bottom of all recent years. As of Dec. 20, the agency had approved 143 drugs and biologics in 2022, including supplemental filings, just slightly higher than the 138 approvals in 2016, but far behind the 208 approvals recorded in both 2021 and 2017.
It was a year of turmoil in Europe as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic shaped the fortunes of the life sciences industry in 2022. After years of tension, Russia’s attempt to annex Ukraine on Feb. 24 caused outrage and disruption and was unanimously opposed on humanitarian grounds by the life sciences and pharma industry.
In 2021, Biogen Inc.’s Aduhelm (aducanumab) became the first amyloid-targeting therapy to win U.S. FDA approval in Alzheimer’s disease. After decades and dozens of failed phase III trials, the drug was granted accelerated approval in June 2021. In January 2022, however, the U.S. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it would only cover use of Alzheimer’s MAbs targeting amyloid in NIH trials or trials it approved, thus appearing to call into question the rigor of FDA-approved trials.