Center for Research Innovation in Biotechnology
Center for Research Innovation in Biotechnology
Last updated on September 15, 2021
Amid a global pandemic, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remained relatively active, approving 55novel molecular entities (NMEs) in 2020, the third highest annual rate recorded. Orphan approvals also surged, capturing 60% of NMEs introduced during 2020, as did the number of NMEs approved using a priority review. The pandemic did appear to impact one recent trend, and in a paradoxically encouraging way. Escalating rates of consolidation slowed in 2020, with only 102 companies lost, down by two-thirds over the rate in 2019. This leaves 2000 extant clinical-stage pharmaceutical companies. When limiting this analysis to companies contributing to the research and development (R&D) of an approved drug, eight were lost, leaving 144 extant.
We analyzed therapeutic areas most commonly targeted by academia since 2001, finding a domination of certain oncology and infectious diseases. These findings raise important questions about whether this trend reflects an expanded opportunity arising from academic research or a troubling sign of an industry struggling with the challenges of innovation.
An assessment of inventors of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medicines reveals a growing role for academic entrepreneurship in general and National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported investigators in particular. For all small-molecule therapeutics approved between 2001 and 2019 (383 in total), 8.3% listed an academic inventor in the Orange Book. Remarkably, an additional 23.8% listed an inventor from a company founded by an NIH-funded academic inventor. Over time, the relative inventive contributions from academia has progressively increased, including nearly one-third of medicines approved since 2017. These findings suggest a surging role for academic inventors and founders, perhaps in combination with a faltering of traditional private sector dominance of drug discovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been humbling for the biomedical community, pointing out as much about what we do not know as what we do. Among these learnings are lessons about immune-based measures to prevent or treat a new biothreat. This article summarizes lessons learned from two experimental approaches for passive immunity, convalescent plasma and monoclonal antibody therapy. Two early reports of outcomes, both of which appeared within hours of one another, reveal the importance of blending past learning with a forward-looking approach. These also present cautionary lessons as the world looks to new vaccines to help eradicate this deadly scourge.
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