Large Molecules: Too Late For Big Pharma?
At a time when the pharmaceutical industry is desperately looking for ways to increase productivity and fatten pipelines, it would only seem sensible for drug companies to maximize their opportunities by creating substantial large molecule capabilities. But even with the renewed interest in monoclonal antibodies, there's little evidence that more than a few major drug companies have made a serious commitment to macromolecule drug discovery and development. Some industry observers contend that companies failing to make such a commitment do so at considerable peril. On the other hand, new technologies may help to make large molecules easier, cheaper, and thus more palatable for drug firms to work with. The question is whether those companies caught up in the small molecule paradigm will seize the opportunity before being left in the dust by those already focusing on macromolecules.
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Perhaps the loudest message from the biopharmaceutical side of the JP Morgan conference was: "Change the Big Pharma model." The theme was pervasive-in discussions of the most interesting products; among the biotechs; indeed in the Big Pharma presentations themselves.
Several of the most small molecule-minded of drug firms have recently made significant moves to increase their macromolecule activities. They now face the formidable task of quickly building the specialized capabilities needed to compete with the more well-entrenched large-molecule players. These relative newcomers vary in their levels of commitment and approaches--from those building or acquiring substantial in-house capabilities and looking to develop biomolecules across a wide range of therapeutic areas to others who favor dealmaking to acquire protein drugs.
Compound Therapeutics has engineered proteins, called Adzymes, which bind to targets with the specificity of antibodies but unlike them destroy their targets using an attached enzyme.