2017 In Pharma Licensing Deals: Global Pharmas Looking Earlier Than Ever

25 Jan

By Lucy Parkinson, Director of Research, LSN

It’s no surprise that pharma companies continue to make licensing deals at a rapid pace; in 2017, LSN’s Licensing Deals platform on average logged one new deal every 3 days.

Taking an overview of the data LSN gathered in this pacy year of dealmaking, we can see a few patterns emerging over the course of the year that show where pharma appetite is currently focused. (LSN’s Licensing Deals platform only logs reported deals in which some financial information is available, whether it’s an up-front payment or future milestones. Deals reported without any financial details are not included in our sample set. Corporate M&A activity isn’t included either – just in-licensing).

Deals Are Getting Earlier

Some deals involved a research platform rather than a drug asset; however, in deals that involved a new drug, 2017 saw a substantial shift toward preclinical and Phase I opportunities. Last year, Phase II assets accounted for 35% of deals; this has slipped to 29%. Overall, Phase II and III deals have gone from representing almost 50% of deals to under 30%. Pharma has become substantially more aggressive about making deals early in an asset’s development cycle. Conversely, as pharma has been moving down this path for years, there may be fewer attractive late stage assets on the shelf than there were in previous years.

Oncology Remains King, But Interest Increases in GI and Metabolic Diseases

Not every deal report specifies the lead indication area for the asset, but among those that do, cancer is overwhelmingly the most active field for pharma licensing deals. However, we have seen some movement in other fields compared to 2016. In particular, appetites for digestive system, metabolic and endocrine therapeutics were higher in 2017.

New Modalities Come Into Play

The LSN Licensing Deals platform is in some cases able to provide information about an asset’s modality, and we saw a great range of therapeutic technologies involved in deals in 2017. Antibodies, drug delivery and kinease inhibitors or agonists remain key technologies; there were also several new deals announced in the vaccine space.

2017 saw several newer technologies become pipeline presences; prodrugs, RNai therapeutics, and gene and cell therapies each garnered several licensing deals, and there were also 2 deals involving microbiome therapeutics.

Asia Pharmas Go Global For New Assets

Have you been talking to the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies about a potential strategic partnership for your asset? That’s a good start, but in 2017 a total of 77 different licensees announced deals for new pipeline assets, from long-established majors to young firms looking to expand on their own in-house successes. These licensee firms include pharmas based all over the world, including several rising pharma powers in China. We saw many of firms based in the Asia region making deals with early stage companies in the West.

If you’re curious, 2017’s most publicly active licensee was Takeda, followed by Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and Merck. However, with such a large number of licensees snapping up promising new drugs ever earlier in the development cycle, major firms are going to have to fight hard to keep up in therapeutic innovation. If you’re a startup CEO, it’s never too early to start locking in your strategic deals, and there’s a large universe of potential targets.

 

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