Late-Stage Biotech In-Licensing
Are biotechs abandoning drug discovery-based business models in favor of in-licensing-based development and marketing strategies? In both annual count and, more dramatically, dollar volume, deals in which biotechs in-license late-stage products-from other biotechs, or from larger pharmaceutical companies-have spiked over the past two years.
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The Medicines Co. (TMC) has pioneered a strategy of in-licensing otherwise unwanted-compromised--late-stage products that it can acquire for little money and then, moving quickly to approval, drive sales through Phase IV positioning trials. The financial equation works for investors who are realizing that, as Big Pharma interest in signing large-dollar discovery deals wanes, they will now have to fund both technology and product development. That dramatically changes the risk/reward ratio which made investing in discovery-based biotechs worthwhile-and makes a development strategy like TMC's more attractive. The strategy is hardly risk-free: many compromised products are compromised because they don't work; and even when they do, the developer doesn't know a priori in which indications they do work-one of the reasons the company almost failed.
The sheer size of today's Big Pharmas has created a problem when it comes to licensing late-stage products; many of those available simply don't have large enough revenue projections to significantly contribute to the Big Pharmas' earnings. But larger biotechs, which don't necessarily need blockbusters to grow earnings, seem to have begun to fill the gap.
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