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Biotech Companies are Bringing Innovation to Global Health

June 18, 2012
By Don Joseph, CEO, BIO Ventures for Global Health

[caption id="attachment_8181" align="alignright" width="115" caption="Don Joseph"]Don Joseph[/caption]

In March, we at BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) released a report, Developing New Drugs and Vaccines for Neglected Diseases of the Poor: The Product Developer Landscape, which showed that small- to medium-sized biotechnology companies are participating in a high percentage (41 percent) of projects targeting neglected diseases of the developing world. The findings of this report were surprising, given the financial risks these companies take on and the little to no promise of a return on their R&D investment.

Intrigued by this level of participation, BVGH joined forces with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) to learn more about the biotech sector and its contributions to neglected disease product development across drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics. Using updated product development data from the BVGH Global Health Primer, BVGH and BIO have authored a new report, Biotechnology: Bringing Innovation to Neglected Disease Research and Development, which not only reinforces the findings of the March Product Developer Landscape, but also sheds light on the mechanisms driving biotech participation in global health and makes recommendations for fully leveraging the innovation emerging from the biotech sector.

The new report, which was released today at the annual BIO International Convention in Boston, finds that 134 biotechnology companies are participating in neglected disease research and development. This represents participation in 39 percent of all projects in development for new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics for neglected diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, Chagas disease, dengue fever, and others. As encouraging as that figure is, it represents only around 5 percent of all biotechnology companies. BIO estimates that there are nearly 3,000 public and private biotechnology companies worldwide, 90 percent of which focus on health research and development.

The report also highlights the importance of partnering as an innovation driver. In fact, 64 percent of all products in development by biotechnology companies across the pipeline of drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics for neglected diseases involve partnering. Diving deeper into the partnering data, the report finds that the biotech sector's most frequent partner is academia (57 percent of projects), followed by product development partnerships — unique public-private partnering mechanisms designed to increase industry participation in neglected disease R&D — (52 percent), government agencies (30 percent), other biotech companies (16 percent), and large pharmaceutical companies (7 percent).

Datasets and figures aside, the most important finding of the new report is not necessarily what has been accomplished to date, but rather what is possible moving forward. To begin to solve the unmet needs of the developing world both biotechnology companies and global health groups must ramp up commitment and involvement.

The biotech sector's capacity for innovation, not to mention willingness to take financial risks, is incredibly encouraging. But with only around 5 percent of all biotechnology companies involved in neglected disease research and development, imagine what engaging the other 95 percent could accomplish.

We encourage you to download and read the new report. It can be accessed here.