Public biopharmaceutical companies did manage to attract some investors off the sidelines in May with medical conference season getting into full gear. However, it was generally another lackluster month, with the Nasdaq Biotech index dropping 2% in the period in contrast to the broader markets with the Dow Jones Industrial Average growing by 2%. The sector, however, could get a significant boost in the next few days if the FDA gives the green light to Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co. Ltd.’s experimental Alzheimer’s disease therapy, aducanumab, a recombinant chimeric human IgG1 monoclonal antibody targeting beta-amyloid, that could be the first disease-modifying therapy for an indication that has seen no novel therapies approved in more than 15 years.
The pace at which companies are integrating the sophisticated tools of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into their drug discovery and development programs continues to accelerate.
The top 100 public biopharmaceutical companies with market caps greater than $1 billion, and excluding big pharma companies, spent a total of almost $12 billion on R&D in the first quarter of 2021, compared to $9.4 billion invested last year. A BioWorld analysis of the quarterly filings of this group found that the 24% year-over-year increase in spending was driven, in part, by companies involved in developing COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
The top 100 public biopharmaceutical companies with market caps greater than $1 billion, and excluding big pharma companies, spent a total of almost $12 billion on R&D in the first quarter of 2021, compared to $9.4 billion invested last year.
Business development among biopharmaceutical companies working on therapeutics for cancer indications has been brisk this year, with 32% of the 654 deals recorded to date by BioWorld involving cancer indications. However public companies in the area haven’t gained much investor enthusiasm, with the BioWorld Cancer index dropping over 18% year-to-date, with 6% of the loss in valuation taking place this month.
The rocky first quarter for public biopharmaceutical companies continued into April as the BioWorld Biopharmaceutical index remained flat for the period in contrast to the general market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average growing by more than 2%. Weighing on the sector has been softer than expected earnings in the period among the top tier companies.
The significant risks and high costs associated with neurological R&D has tended to keep companies and investors on the sidelines over the past few years. However, thanks to research progress and the development of new technologies, business development and investing in the space is heating up once again.
The development of gene therapy has come a long way over the past two decades after getting off to a rocky start following the death of a young patient after being treated with an experimental therapy. Since that time continuing scientific progress has enabled the development of a robust product pipeline of promising therapies that could lead to, according to FDA estimates, 10 to 20 cell and gene therapy products a year within the next five years. The renaissance of the sector has also attracted record amounts of investment capital and significant business development.
It has been a challenging opening first quarter for companies developing new therapeutics, with the BioWorld Drug Developers index recording a 9% drop in value, representing a stark contrast to its more than 35% growth last year.
The biopharmaceutical sector is showing no signs of slowing the pace of attracting capital. After coming off a record year, global private and public companies collectively raised $37 billion in the first quarter, indicating that it could be another bumper year for financings.