heroes of future drug discovery
The therapeutic landscape is rapidly changing as clinical investigators continue their efforts to discover the next generation of leading pharmaceutical products. With the emergence of new therapies, such as gene and RNA therapies, there is a need to develop more sophisticated ways of delivering these complex drug modalities to targeted areas in the body. In our view, advancements in drug delivery technologies are as critical as drug discovery, after all, efficacy heavily relies on timing and presence of a drug at the right place. COVID-19 brought a surge of intensified research and funding in delivery platforms, forging new partnerships and, in our view, has primed big pharma pipelines to deliver a raft of new drug candidates that will heavily rely on platforms derived from highly specialised biotechs.
When assessing the clinical pipeline, there is perhaps a tendency to solely focus on a drug’s blockbuster potential with less consideration for the underlying drug delivery technology or where such a platform is derived from. We believe such an attitude represents an oversight and that delivery platforms are, and will continue to be, a critical key to unlocking the true value of new drugs. Some of the latest clinical breakthroughs have only been realised because of delivery platforms, exemplified by the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine which utilised Acuitas Therapeutics’ lipid nanoparticles (LNPs). Unlike Pfizer, Acuitas was not a name making the headlines, yet it played a critical role in the development of a vaccine that helped stem the tide of the pandemic.
Relative to single-asset biotechs, drug delivery companies are somewhat de-risked, in our view, with flexibility to establish diversified partnerships and multiple licensing opportunities that provide upfront access to capital and backend royalties on sales from a single technology platform. Additionally, these technologies can often be applied across a range of indications, uniquely positioning them in the market, and we believe big pharma will ultimately have to turn to them if they are to deliver the therapies of the future.
Exhibit 1: Selected approved drugs utilising new delivery platforms
Source: Edison Investment Research, EvaluatePharma
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