A recap on the past few months of data digging and analysis

Using EvaluatePharma data Vantage explored investment trends in biopharma and medtech, sales per employee at big drug makers, and the declining number of late-stage assets in these huge companies’ hands.

Big buyouts are in, big venture rounds are on the way out, and flotations are roaring away. These are just some of the conclusions from Vantage’s expansive analyses of biopharma investment trends, encompassing the first half of this year and stretching back to 2015.

The analyses are collected together in a free report, and also cover medtech. Findings from this sector included a dip in the number of medtech company IPOs, but a healthy reception for those that did manage to get away. And, as in biopharma, medtech is enjoying a buoyant private financing scene and a run of large takeouts.

The report also looks at the regulatory climate, finding that the FDA is continuing to green light a healthy level of novel drugs and devices. For these and further cuts of EvaluatePharma data, the report can be downloaded from Vantage Pharma, Biotech & Medtech Half-Year Review 2019.

Oncology’s haves and have-nots

Beyond the quarterly data, another analysis looked at how different therapy areas have received very different levels of investment. According to our data dig there are 1,806 novel oncology projects in clinical development, more than three times as many as in infectious diseases or neurology.

A deeper look at cancer shows the huge disparity within this field: non-small cell lung cancer has received more research dollars than any other tumour type, with EvaluatePharma Vision estimating that the cost of all ongoing NSCLC studies amounts to $16bn. The huge sum of cash that has gone into this cancer type, and others like breast and prostate, means that companies must have a very strong reason to put more money into work in these diseases.

Abbvie proves the best at getting the most out of its workers

An analysis of the sales per employee ratio across the world’s biggest drug makers found that Abbvie and Bristol-Myers Squibb lead the big pharma pack, while Sanofi and Astrazeneca are the sector laggards. The first two companies are among this group’s smallest employers; a look at the result from the big biotechs shows Gilead and Celgene ahead. The latter will give Bristol a big boost on this measure, when that takeover finally goes through.

Array-size deals don’t come around too often

On the M&A theme, a look at deal data in the wake of Pfizer’s move on Array Biopharma found that acquisitions in the $10bn range do not come around that often. Coming after Lilly’s acquisition of Loxo Oncology and Roche’s bid for Spark in the first quarter, hopes are high that 2019 will deliver more such deals. But few takeouts happen in this territory, which is something for investors to bear in mind when they scroll through the list of purported acquisition targets, whose market cap plus any premium could take them into a barren M&A territory. 

Time to restock big pharma’s leaking pipeline

A separate look at the distribution of the industry’s late-stage assets found that ownership among the industry’s bigger players is shrinking. Meanwhile, EvaluatePharma data show that there has been a jump in the number of phase III assets in the hands of big biotech. And this surge is even more pronounced among small companies. While cash is relatively easy to raise from public and private investors, lessening the pressure on smaller players to sell out, these trends could deepen in the coming years.

Finally, smaller datapoint analyses published recently include: a graphic on China’s PD(L)-1 players; a look at the companies that rely most heavily on a single marketed product; and a graph showing that approvals of projects sourced externally are falling for big companies.

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