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New life sciences R&D model based on real-time learning and data-sharing needed to sustain innovation

BOSTON and LONDON, June 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The global biotechnology industry showed a second straight year of increasingly stable financial performance in 2011, according to Ernst & Young's 26th annual biotech report, Beyond borders: global biotechnology report 2012, with established biotech markets registering more than 10% revenue growth for the first time since the start of the global financial crisis. However, longer-term sustainability remains challenging, with the traditional funding-and-innovation model for pre-commercial biotech firms under unprecedented strain and the industry's efforts to date to "do more with less" uncertain to deliver significant productivity gains.

"In this capital-constrained environment, the inefficiency and duplication of the drug R&D paradigm is an indulgence we can no longer afford," says Glen Giovannetti, Ernst & Young's Global Life Sciences Leader. "More than ever, the industry needs to remove duplication, encourage pre-competitive collaboration, pool data and allow researchers to learn in real time."  

Key results highlighted in the report include:

  • Revenue stabilizes: Companies in the industry's established biotech centers (US, Europe, Canada and Australia) achieved revenues of US$83.4 billion in 2011, a 10% increase from 2010 on a normalized basis (after adjusting for the acquisition of three large US-based biotechs by non-biotech buyers).
  • R&D rebounds: After slashing R&D spending in 2009 and increasing it modestly by 2% in 2010, the industry grew R&D by a healthy 9% (on a normalized basis) in 2011.
  • Overall funding explodes, but "innovation capital" stays flat: Biotech companies raised a staggering US$33.4 billion in 2011, second only to 2000, when the genomics bubble was at its height. However, this increase was driven by a handful of commercial leaders with revenues in excess of US$500 million that took advantage of low interest rates to raise large sums of debt. Importantly, capital raised by the rest of the industry (innovation capital) remained largely unchanged from the previous four years at US$16.8 billion. IPO buyers remained selective, with only 16 IPOs and aggregate proceeds of US$857 million, compared to US$1.3 billion in 2010.
  • M&As up, but big pharma largely absent:  Mergers and acquisitions involving European or US biotechs increased from 49 deals in 2010 to 57 deals in 2011. However, big pharma was the buyer in only 7 of these 57 deals, a potentially troubling trend given pharma's critical role in supporting biotech innovation.
    Ernst & Young estimates that the "firepower" of the top 28 drug companies to support biotech innovation declined by 30% between 2006 and 2011 — a situation that is not expected to improve with more patent expiries and investor pressure ahead.
  • A new model for industry R&D The report finds that drug R&D needs a new approach that is iterative, fast, adaptive, cost-efficient and open. The report propose such a new model, the holistic open learning network (HOLNet). These networks of diverse entities — drug firms, providers, patient groups, social media networks, data analytic firms and more — would pool vast amounts of data, share real-time insights from across the health care ecosystem, and adapt rapidly.  HOLNets would build on existing trends and, critically, connect information from across the value chain and cycle of care. This approach could:

  • Encourage data sharing in precompetitive spaces (e.g., genetic data from patients, claims data from payers, outcomes data from providers' Electronic Health Record systems, data on failed clinical trials from life sciences companies and insights from disease foundations)
  • Create uniform standards for data that will enable it to be combined and studied holistically
  • Enable engagement with regulators on new approaches to R&D and clinical trial design
  • Build more enduring relationships with patients and use richer real-time patient data (with informed patient consent) to inform drug R&D
  • Glen Giovannetti says, "To shift the R&D paradigm, companies will need to recognize that in some situations sharing information may create more value than protecting it. Disruptive reinvention is never easy. But, given the significant financial pressures facing most biotechs and other key health care players — payers, big pharma, investors — conditions have never been better for a HOLNet approach that leverages big data, real-time insights and the diverse strengths of a wide range of players."

    Notes to editorsKey regional findingsUnited States

  • Revenues of publicly traded biotechs were US$58.8 billion, a 12% increase on a normalized basis — outpacing the 10% growth rate in 2010.
  • R&D spending increased by 9% in 2011, building on the 3% increase in 2010.
  • Net income fell 21% on a normalized basis from US$5.2 billion in 2010 to US$3.3 billion in 2011.
  • M&As involving US-based biotech companies rebounded to 37 deals from a low of 26 in 2010.  
  • Total US funding reached US$29.8 billion in 2011, up an impressive 38% from 2010 but driven largely by debt raised by profitable companies to refinance existing debt and for stock buybacks and acquisitions.
  • Europe

  • Revenues of European public biotechs grew 10% to US$18.9 billion.
  • R&D expense grew by a healthy 9% in 2011, up from 5% in 2010 and a 2% decline in 2009.
  • The combined net loss improved dramatically from US$568 million in 2010 to US$0.3 million in 2011, bringing the industry to the brink of aggregate profitability for the first time.
  • M&As rose for the second straight year, with 22 transactions compared to 17 in the two previous years.
  • Financing totaled US$2.9 billion, down from US$3.8 billion in 2010.
  • About Ernst & Young's Global Life Sciences CenterErnst & Young's Global Life Sciences Center brings together a worldwide team of professionals to help life sciences companies address their challenges at every stage of development. From the emerging biotech or medtech firm to the well-established, global pharmaceutical company, our industry teams bring deep experience in providing assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The Center works to anticipate market trends, identify implications and develop points of view on relevant industry issues. Whether it's forming innovative alliances, improving operations, new regulations or exploring new markets, we can give you a clear perspective on how to drive value in an increasingly complex, competitive and risk-driven environment. It's how Ernst & Young makes a difference.

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    About Ernst & Young
    Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 152,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential.

    Ernst & Young refers to the global organization of member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit

    This news release has been issued by EYGM Limited, a member of the global Ernst & Young organization that also does not provide any services to clients.Daniel Cusworth

    Gregory KelleyGlobal Media Relations

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