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Publication date: 22 October 2012
Author(s): Bahija Jallal, Executive Vice President, Research & Development, MedImmune

Teamwork pays off in race to expand market for monoclonal antibodies

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The first biologic drug – infliximab (Remicade) – was launched in 1998 with initial sales of USD 500 million per annum. By 2010, Reuters’ top 10 drugs by sales included five biologics (Remicade, Enbrel, Humira, Avastin and Humira) generating around USD 34 billion in revenue, including USD 7.4 billion from Remicade1. Reuters have predicted that by 2014, these five will be joined in the top 10 by Herceptin, that their combined sales will be USD 47 billion per annum and that the three top-selling drugs in the world will be biologics1. It is fair to say then that biologics are transforming the landscape of the pharmaceutical industry – but how and why have these complex molecules achieved this?

Actually, the answer to the ‘why’ question is quite straightforward. They are safer and efficient in their target populations and their target populations are sometimes quite large and other times represent ‘new’ populations for therapy (i.e. there are no current therapeutic options for those patients). These factors combine to make biologics an attractive proposition for big Pharma.

Biologics are genetically-engineered proteins that mimic natural components of the immune system – including T-cells, interleukins, growth factors and interferons – and are highly specific for their targets.

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