Lucrative Big Pharma Licensing Deals Can be Struck at All Stages of Research

7 August 2014

Trinity College Dublin academics have recently published a paper in the prestigious journal Nature Biotechnology which sheds light on the market dynamics and huge potential in licensing deals with big pharmaceutical companies. The findings are of particular relevance to those working in and funding drug development in Ireland and worldwide.

By analysing over 800 licensing deals, totalling over 16 trillion USD, the authors sought to discover whether small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) receive more lucrative deals licensing their drugs to large pharmaceutical companies than to their smaller SME counterparts.

The research group led by Professor in Neuroscience in the School of Medicine, Trinity, Kumlesh Dev, found that contrary to assumptions, big pharma did not appear to use its market muscle to negotiate aggressive deals with SMEs. Rather, smaller companies were able to attract higher upfront payments selling to big pharma than to other SME market players.

The study showed that, compared with SMEs, big pharma paid on average at least 35% more in upfront payments at all phases of research and development, including for filed therapies, drugs in phase I-III clinical trials, as well as preclinical and early research compounds. It also showed that the total number of upfront payments, more than $100 million, made by big pharma is two and a half times greater than those made by SMEs.

The researchers found that pharmaceutical companies are much more active than SMEs in licensing assets in early research or preclinical development, an important point for those researchers and spinout companies located in Ireland who are considering out-licensing deals.

Speaking about the importance of these findings for those involved in drug development research and for funding agencies of scientific research, Professor Dev said: “These findings suggest that engagement of Irish-based SMEs, research institutions and universities with internationally renowned large pharma can be profitable at all stages of drug development and commercialisation. Our research shows that attracting lucrative out-licencing deals with large pharma is worthwhile, and indeed possible, at early stages of research as well as in the preclinical and clinical development phases."

"We were also interested to see that early research activities can be equally commercially rewarding as late development products. We think that while there is a drive to push research toward later phases of drug discovery, it appears that large pharma are in need of new and early research projects and are thus willing to pay well for such early research products. These findings are important for researchers engaged in drug development, as well as Irish funding agencies that are vital to the continued support of such activities." 

“Over half of revenues in big pharma come from in-licensed drugs. As such, knowing the buying behaviours of these corporations is of fundamental importance to understanding the market dynamics of this sector,” concluded Professor Dev.

The full article is available here.

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