Acquisitions and outsourcing keep pharma R&D on track

May 1, 2009
Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - May 2009,

Pharma deals buck general industry trend in US

Consolidation of drug pipelines through acquisitions remains a key component of pharmaceutical research and development. Such M&A activity continues to involve both intra-pharmaceutical deals and purchases of biotechs by big pharma, according to a report from market researcher CBR Pharma Insights (Monroe Township, NJ).

In this regard, the drug industry may be bucking a larger trend: Robert W. Baird & Co. reports that merger and acquisition deals in the United States fell 40.1% in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same period a year ago. The two big pharma deals of the period—Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth and Merck’s purchase of Schering Plough—forestalled a plunge to 65.1%, says the Milwaukee-based financial advisory.

In addition to mergers and acquisitions, the drug industry continues its reliance on outsourcing in its R&D efforts. CBR reports a “greater move toward outsourcing of R&D to growing players outside of the U.S. and Europe, particularly in China and India.” One sign of this is that the proportion of principal investigators based in the U.S. has steadily declined, from 96% of the total global pool of FDA regulated investigators in 1990 to 54% in 2007. The number of active PIs in the U.S. has declined 3.5% annually since 2001, while active PIs outside the U.S. increased 13.5% each year simultaneously, CBR says.

Drug companies are also narrowing the focus of their R&D units through a more strategic concentration on chronic illnesses. Cancer, infectious diseases, neurological disorders and heart disease together account for more than 2000 of the nearly 2600 products currently in Phase 3 trials, according to the company.