Year-End Roundup: Pharma Licensing Deals

18 Dec

By Lucy Parkinson, Senior Research Manager, LSN

lucy 10*10In recent years, big pharmaceutical companies have filled their pipelines by turning to smaller partners to find innovative products, and 2014 has been no exception. This year has produced so much dealmaking news that you may have lost track of all the new partnerships. But we’ve dug into the LSN Licensing Deals Platform to examine the key data points from the year’s pharmaceutical licensing activity.

Preclinical and Phase II Deals Dominated

Although about a quarter of the licensing deals LSN tracked involved a drug discovery platform, the rest were focused on one or more clinical assets. Of these deals, most were inked either during preclinical development or in Phase II. (See Figure 1.) It’s common wisdom that most assets find a partner in Phase II, but this data demonstrates that it’s important to think about a strategic partner even before entering the clinic.


Lucy Figure 1

Figure 1


Cancer Was the Top Indication

More than a third of the deals that we tracked involved assets in the cancer space. (See Figure 2.) This is perhaps unsurprising as such a huge amount of innovation is occurring in this field. Although many deals have taken place in other indication areas—such as CNS disorders, infectious diseases, and blood and immune diseases—the number of deals hasn’t even come close to the level in the oncology space.


Lucy Figure 2

Figure 2


Gene therapy and immunotherapy enter pipelines, while antibodies and drug delivery remain strong

The LSN Licensing Deals Platform also includes information on the compound type and technological approach of the assets that the deal concerns. Although a huge variety of innovations—including those in the areas of opioids, antisense technologies, and many different types of inhibitors— have been the basis for partnerships in 2014, a few areas stand out.

Antibodies were the largest single field for pharma dealmaking in 2014, comprising 18% of all deals tracked by LSN. Drug delivery technologies, of perennial interest to pharma companies, were the subject of 11% of deals, most of which concerned oral formulations. The emerging field of immunotherapy also made an impact on the deals landscape, with 8% of partnerships involving immunotherapy or immunomodulation. It’s also exciting to see that gene therapy and mRNA therapeutics are making their way into pipelines; these two technology types were the subject of 7% of deals.

Who Came to the Table?

The names of the most active pharma dealmakers in 2014 are unlikely to surprise you. Among the licensing deals LSN tracked, Merck’s name appears on the greatest number of agreements, closely followed by other familiar names, including Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Sanofi, and AstraZeneca. (Note that LSN’s Licensing Deals platform doesn’t include corporate acquisitions, which account for additional flow into the pipelines of big pharma companies.)

However, behind these well-known strategic partners lies the long tail of dealmaking. LSN recorded deals made by 48 licensees all over the world, of which the majority announced only one licensing deal. Even this figure represents a minority of active licensees; in the LSN Investor Platform, we found 108 groups that are actively seeking licensing opportunities.

If you’re looking for a partner for your therapeutic asset, you would do well to keep your horizons wide and execute a partnering outreach strategy that looks beyond the most active, big-name pharma companies.

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