Sep 01, 2009
By Pharmaceutical Technology Editors
Volume 21, Issue 9

Tailor-made medicine drives M&As

(Tom Grill/Getty Images)
The growth of personalized medicine will bolster the number of alliances between diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). As evidence of this trend, PwC cited the partnership announced in July 2009 between GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Enigma (UK), which was influenced by personalized medicine. "The partnership between Enigma and GSK enables significant progression towards the 'holy grail' of companion diagnostics — the ability to rapidly and locally test to the same accuracy standards as reference laboratories and immediately determine the correct treatment," said John McKinley, Chairman and CEO of Enigma, in a joint statement issued by the two companies.

The PwC report, Diagnostics 2009: Moving towards personalized medicine, explains that a number of factors are expected to contribute to the continued drive towards personalized medicine, including regulatory agencies that are introducing requirements to test for certain biomarkers prior to prescribing certain drugs and Genentech's Citizen Petition of December 2008, which has motivated discussions regarding the diverse scientific and regulatory standards for in vitro tests. In addition, more people may also now undergo genetic testing thanks to legislation introduced in the US and Europe last year that protects individuals from genetic discrimination.

Another factor influencing personalized medicine will be the current economical crisis. Speaking exclusively to Pharmaceutical Technology Europe (PTE), Laurent Probst, Leader of the Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences practice of PwC in Luxembourg, said: "We are convinced that the current crisis will place greater emphasis on the urgent need to develop personalized medicine."

According to Probst, government and social security deficits in many countries require urgent reforms to improve the efficiency and quality of healthcare. "The recent introduction of he Obama healthcare reform to implement reforms to help lower costs and improve healthcare quality is a good illustration of this new impulse," Probst told PTE. "As published in our Diagnostics 2009 report, significant transactions directly related to personalized medicines have taken place and we anticipate a future rise in investment."

Indeed, pharma companies have a great deal to gain by venturing into the personalized medicine market. Laurent believes that personalized medicine may reduce the gap between regulatory bodies and the pharma sector with regard to drug benefits and cost impact assessments. "Pharma companies understand the contribution of biomarkers and diagnostics in improving the design and probability of success of clinical trials," said Probst. "In addition, pressure from healthcare payers is putting more emphasis on the availability of a companion biomarker test when deciding on a drug's reimbursement."

This view was also shared by Simon Friend, Global Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences Industry Leader at PwC. In a statement he said: "These factors will combine to accelerate the development of new diagnostics for personalized medicine. Together, we anticipate that alliances and collaboration will be inevitable as market needs expand."

New life pumped into UK pharma

In a bid to secure the future of the UK pharma industry, the sector will soon receive its own body to help employers drive the key skills agenda of the industry.

The move follows a workshop organized by Cogent Sector Skills Council and the National Skills Academy Process Industries (NSAPI), which brought together more than 30 of the country's largest industry players. "This group will put the 600 pharma employers in the UK firmly in the driving seat," Phil Jones, CEO of the National Skills Academy Process Industries, told Pharmaceutical Technology Europe (PTE). "It is their industry and they are the best people to direct the change."

Process industries (chemical, pharmaceuticals and polymers) in the UK are suffering from a severe skills shortage — 40% of the workforce is aged more than 45 years. To keep the industry alive, the sector will need to recruit 24000 apprentices and 10000 graduates during the next decade, but this won't be easy. According to Jones, the pharma industry does not have a good image. "The number of science subject graduates deciding to take employment in the manufacturing sector as opposed to finance, law or consultancy demonstrates that the pharma industry is not seen as an attractive career option," he said.

This opinion is mirrored by Michael Johnson, a recent graduate of Applied Biology, who now works at UK CMO, SCM Pharma, as a microbiology technician. Talking to PTE, he explained: "Many of my fellow graduates have steered away from science-based jobs since graduating and I am the only person from my year I know of currently working in the pharma sector. A lot of my friends think I work long hours in some dull laboratory for some pharmaceutical giant, which is certainly not the case."

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