The best-selling pharmaceuticals of 2023: Immunology and oncology return to prominence

Note: This feature on the best-selling pharmaceuticals of 2023 will be updated regularly as new data becomes available. Stay tuned for our ongoing coverage of the pharma sector’s sales dynamics.

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In 2023, as the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic began to loosen, the pharma sector returned to relying on immunology and oncology as sales drivers. So far this year, the two segments are on track to be the strongest in the pharma landscape. In the first half of 2023, the immunology and oncology domains drove sales of $31.110 billion and $37.982 billion, respectively, based on a review of financial data from 13 Big Pharma companies. Conversely, the infectious disease segment accumulated sales of approximately $28.587 billion.

Contrasting the boom of prior years, 2023 has seen a pronounced dip in the appetite for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. For instance, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine generated roug…

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Five insights on COVID-19 vaccine side effects

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To date, there have been more than 770 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 7 million deaths from the virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Vaccines remain one of the most potent tools in blunting the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and vaccine developers have distributed more than 13.5 billion vaccine doses to date.

As the global fight against COVID-19 continues, the emphasis on vaccine safety remains a priority. While COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and J&J vaccines show higher reactogenicity than other commonly administered vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 remains a dangerous virus. Beyond the immediate threat of infection, the prolonged impact of ‘long COVID‘ is considerable. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reveals that more than 40% of U.S. adults have had a COVID-19 infection, with nearly 19% of these individuals still grappling wit…

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Assessing the techbio landscape: hype or substance?

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The venture capital firm Artis Ventures, founded in 2001, coined the term “techbio” sector to describe biotech platforms where technology and engineering take the lead in advancing drug discovery and biomanufacturing. In circa 2019, the firm contributed to shaping the techbio landscape by setting up venture capital fund named Artis techbio that bridges the gap between software and drug development.

Although the term term “techbio” has gained prominence in recent year, the use of technologies such as AI, automation and genomics in the biotech sector has attracted considerable attention from startups and investors for much longer. This is evident when noting the founding dates of notable companies in the space: Ginkgo Bioworks’ origins trace back to 2008. Exscientia and AbCellera were established in 2012, and BenevolentAI and Recursion in 2013.

Reality c…
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Life sciences single-use instrumentation trends

Figure 1: For better flexibility to produce a wider variety of targeted drugs, especially biologics, life sciences manufacturers are moving toward single-use options for operating both batch and continuous processing equipment.

Single-use instrumentation, especially new pH sensors designed for upstream and downstream applications, are helping manufacturers develop production suites for creating a greater variety of small-run yet highly targeted drugs.

Life sciences manufacturers already incorporate leading measurement and automation technologies to ensure the quality of the drugs and medicines they bring to market. Yet because the life sciences industry and associated products are evolving in many ways, it remains important for both manufacturers and OEMs to evaluate updated measurement and automation technologies to meet new needs.

In most industries, scaling up is the path forward to gain production efficiencies, with large batc…

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Harnessing the untapped potential of legacy data in pharma R&D

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Clinical trials for a new therapy cost a median of $41,117 per patient. Costs like this are no surprise to pharma leaders. But during an age of increasing budgetary pressures, drug developers are under pressure to do more with less money and staff. While there are no “simple” answers to this challenge, there is one strategy that offers research and development (R&D) teams a very powerful approach: better leveraging existing legacy data. 

Pharmaceutical companies own petabytes of imaging data, generated by in-house research, investigator-initiated studies or clinical trials. This data is valuable and can yield insights that can help researchers better understand disease mechanisms and inform therapeutic approaches. But in many cases, researchers cannot access this important data, as it remains in silos with CROs, investigator labs, or within a specific research group…

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Inflation may slow, but R&D still hot, in this week’s R&D Power Index

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The R&D World Index (RDWI) for the week ending June 17, 2022, closed at 4,413.63 for the 25 companies in the RDWI. The Index was down -.3.44% (or -157.22 basis points) from the week ending June 10, 2022. Two of the 25 RDWI members gained value from 0.86% (Oracle) to 6.67% (Cisco). Twenty-three of the 25 RDWI members lost value last week from -0.86% (IBM) to -11.92% (Ford Motor Co.).

Drug companies on the list include Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Merck, Novartis and Pfizer.

Get the full story from our sister site, R&D World.

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J&J’s CSO to retire by the end of 2021

Dr. Paul Stoffels, who serves as Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientific officer, will end his tenure on December 31.

Stoffels, who is also vice-chairman of J&J’s executive committee, was responsible for reinvigorating J&J’s Janssen pharmaceutical pipeline and was instrumental in developing a COVID-19 vaccine.

The company’s CEO and executive chairman, Alex Gorsky, is also retiring from the company, effective January 3, 2022.

Dr. Paul Stoffels

Stoffels, a Belgian, intends to spend more time with his family in Europe.

Earlier in his career, Stoffels focused on tropical-disease research and antiviral drugs.

He co-founded the antiviral firm Tibotec-Virco, which Janssen acquired in 2002, paving the way to the company’s focus on HIV drugs.

Stoffels also had a passion for tackling tuberculosis and Ebola and pushed Janssen to develop treatments for them.

In 2020, St…

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VectorBuilder and Landau join forces to create primate gene therapy research center

Recombinant vector specialist VectorBuilder and Landau Biotechnology, which develops nonhuman primate models for clinical research, have entered into a strategic partnership. The two companies will collaborate on establishing a primate gene therapy R&D center.

VectorBuilder is based in Chicago and has facilities in Germany, Japan and China. Landau Biotechnology is headquartered in China.

The center will focus on the development of platforms for vector screening and optimization and offer a range of contract research organization–based services for cell- and gene-therapy companies. It will also offer in vivo screening of nonhuman primate to identify potential gene delivery vectors for human clinical use.

Nonhuman primate vectors have received attention during the COVID-19 pandemic given the use of such technology in the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Specifically, the vaccine uses a modified chimpanzee adenovirus ChAdOx1 vector developed at the …

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Biden and Pelosi pursuing plans to cap drug prices

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President Biden has instructed FDA to develop a plan to import prescription drugs from Canada while asking federal officials to create a “comprehensive plan” to cut drug prices within 45 days.

Biden has also recommended that FTC block “pay for delay” agreements from pharma companies paying generic drug makers to hold off on introducing competitive products.

The proposals are included in a far-reaching executive order with several healthcare provisions. The main thrust of the order, however, is stimulating competition in the economy.

Earlier this year, Biden asked Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which was also a goal spelled out in the 2019 House Bill H.R. 3 that Democrats reintroduced in April.

Biden included the recent effort to give Medicare drug negotiation powers in an executive order intended to spur economic comp…

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Q&A: Keys to unlock data science potential for drug discovery

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For all of its promise in healthcare and elsewhere, deploying artificial intelligence is frequently a challenging endeavor. “Close collaboration between data science teams, other project team members and stakeholders is essential,” said Jennifer Bradford, director of data science at Phastar, the London-headquartered contract research organization. While input from computational, statistical or medical experts could be essential to inform data science models, all stakeholders understand the requirements and are working “in sync with the project,” Branford said.

In the following interview, Bradford shares advice on how to collaborate effectively on data science projects, the impact of COVID-19 on data science in pharma and the potential for AI to accelerate R&D timelines. 

What comes next after alignment between different stakeholders on data science projects is confirmed? <…

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Organ-chips could streamline drug development, but hurdles remain

Emulate Bio’s CHIP-S1

While organ-on-a-chip technology has evolved tremendously over the past 15 years, adoption of the technology remains at an early stage. But as organ-chip technology advances and the R&D costs for pharma companies continue to hover near unsustainable levels, organ-on-a-chip technology has the promise to address what cell biologist and bioengineer Donald Ingber called the “broken” drug-development model. 

One of the key challenges is the drug industry’s reliance on animal studies in preclinical research, Ingber said in an Emulate Bio virtual event. “There are ethical issues,” said Ingber, a member of the company’s board of directors. “But the real problem is that the results of these animal preclinical models often don’t predict clinical responses,” he added. 

Complicating matters further is the rise of biologics, which make up a sizable portion of the drug-development pi…

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Why focusing on the quantity of pharma innovation is misleading

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Since the early 2000s, pundits have lamented that there is an innovation crisis in the pharmaceutical industry. One of the most common reasons given is the challenge of bringing new drugs to market.

The U.S. Government Accounting Office concluded in 20016 that the “productivity of [the pharma industry’s] research and development expenditures has been declining.” The cost of developing a new drug frequently tops $1 billion, and scores of drug candidates never make it to market.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened society’s appreciation for the pharmaceutical industry’s innovation, the concept of an innovation crisis hasn’t gone away.

Many of the arguments purporting such a crisis focus on the quality of pharmaceutical innovation rather than its quantity, said Troy Groetken, a shareholder, board member, and executive committee member at the intellectual prop…

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