What the coming year might hold for biopharma

Big events for 2021 include the FDA’s decision on aducanumab and pivotal readouts in diabetes and autoimmunity, while investor enthusiasm will be closely monitored.

Biopharma’s ongoing response to the pandemic will be the dominant theme for the sector and its followers next year. From driving financings, deal-making and of course newsflow, the industry’s role in trying to bring the pandemic to an end looks set to continue to generate a huge amount of attention.

But the business of drug development outside Covid-19 continues apace, and 2021 promises much activity elsewhere. In our latest report, which is free to download, Evaluate Vantage has pulled together data-driven analyses to help identify the drugs, research projects and companies to watch next year.


The first section of the report concerns biopharma’s attempts to halt the pandemic. We take a closer look at the main therapy approaches, from vaccines to antivirals and antibodies and beyond, and highlight what to expect next.

With many of the leading approaches yet to generate late-stage data, robust consensus models have yet to emerge for a large part of the pipeline. Figuring out which companies might benefit financially over the short or long term will remain a big preoccupation for investors in 2021.

At least the impact of global shutdowns is beginning to unravel. An analysis of trial suspensions finds the number shut down due to Covid-19 has dramatically reduced, and hopes are high that the picture will improve further in next year.

Innovation and regulation

Oncology will continue to be a major driver of the sector’s topline growth in 2021. Six of the 10 biggest new sales generators are treatments for various cancers, and three of these are anti-PD(L)1 antibodies. Keytruda is king here, and is forecast to add $2.7bn in new sales in 2021, taking its annual revenues to almost $17bn.

Abbvie’s Humira retains the crown as the biggest-selling drug for now, however. Abbvie is also expected to enjoy the largest top-line growth next year, adding $6bn in new sales, thanks to two very well-received new immunotherapies, Rinvoq and Skyrizi.

Further analyses in the report detail the most costly R&D projects, as computed by Evaluate Omniums R&D Costs module. Heading the table is Lilly’s new diabetes project tirzepatide, clinical trials of which are estimated to cost the pharma giant $617m in 2021.The report also details the 10 biggest potential new launches next year, as well as biopharma’s top 10 most highly valued R&D projects. The top three are detailed here.

Money, Markets and M&A

Biopharma was already enjoying a relatively buoyant time before the pandemic hit, and the huge amount of focus that the outbreak bestowed on the drug development sector has generated even more investor interest. Consequently a huge amount of money flowed into the industry in 2020. Whether that continues in 2021 is a burning question.

The fourth quarter has seen some pullbacks in IPOs and venture financings in the final months of 2020, however this was from very high levels. And big drug developers continue to prove themselves motivated buyers, so there are many reasons to believe that on the deal front – both financing and M&A – 2021 should be another good year.

Analyses in this section include M&A premiums and takeout trends, the latest numbers of venture financing and IPOs, and a look at Spacs, a new financing vehicle that industry followers are likely to hear a lot more about in 2021.

For the biggest launches to the top selling drugs, financing and deal making trends and important clinical readouts, download Evaluate Vantage’s free 2021 Preview.

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