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Advances in pharmaceutical neuroscience present an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to stay ahead of the curve.
If a major league team was guaranteed to lose half of its best players (by far) over the next few seasons, the outlook would be gloomy. Our industry will lose core patents on Humira,
Keytruda, Revlimid, and Eliquis shortly, with another slew of top sellers not long thereafter. Boardroom speculation has been rife with patent thickets and discussion regarding the technical challenges in producing generics for large complex biomolecules. But the obvious is true, this will happen, it will hurt, and some will feel the pain far more than others.
One might suppose the boardrooms of AbbVie, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, and Pfizer must feel most under siege. But while the threat falls heaviest here, these companies have also fortified and reconfigured their operations the most, and have had the most money to do so. Mergers and acquisitions, while comparatively quiet the past year or so, are boiling away beneath the surface. More useful to the long-term interests of the pharmaceutical industry, however, are investments in new approaches, novel technologies, and fresh ways of thinking.
When the overall economy looks set to accelerate, that effect is first felt by architects. They first receive the funds to draw up blueprints for what building(s) comes next. In the pharmaceutical industry, that bellwether is the academic pharmaceutical scientist. If you speak with someone from this group recently, they are likely to tell you of conversations ongoing about pilot programs or proof-of-concept partnerships they are excited about. A few days ago when chatting with a professor of pharmaceutical sciences and chemical engineering, he surprised me by outlining a simple path to delivering drugs safely past the blood brain barrier. This membrane has been an obstacle to neuroscience pharmaceuticals for such a long time because it does its job so well—keeping out the larger molecules evolution has taught us to be conservative toward. Another scientist shared background about mapping counterfeit drugs and linking that geospatially to a rise in resistant infections in several geographies.
One need only draw up a compilation map of which disease areas, which technology advances, and which engineering processes are being redesigned in these academic conversations, to view a composite image of the biopharma industry’s next decade or two. A money-ball meets blink and the tipping point pharmaome, if you will. Reportedly, from these conversations, after many decades of setbacks, pharmaceutical neuroscience looks like having a better season ahead than, say, the New York Jets.
Mike Hennessy Jr. is the President and CEO of MJH Life Sciences.
Vol. 46, No. 4
When referring to this article, please cite it as M. Hennessy, “Major League Moves,” Pharmaceutical Technology 46 (4) 2022.