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European drug developers are far too dependent on Big Pharma

European drug developers

European drug developers moaned about the lack of manufacturing capacities at contract manufacturing organisation (CMOs).

Gene and cell therapies, pediatric drugs, and formulation were just some hot topics discussed in a record number of B2B meetings at BIO-Europe in Copenhagen. 

After the recent EU approval of the first bunch of CAR-T cell therapies, the most-visited conference track of the three-days event in the Danish capital Copenhagen was about the lucrative field of cell and gene therapies. European drug developers moaned about the lack of manufacturing capacities at contract manufacturing organisation (CMOs). The CMOs, however, have to deal with a plethora of new different formats such as bispecific antibodies, ADCs etc., and expertise in the complex field of autologous cell therapies is still limited to specialists.

While it is commonplace that manufacturing complexity and capacity of an asset can make or break a deal, Werner Lanthaler of German Evotec AG painted a picture of even more complexity: “In terms of innovation, business development lags behind research and development,” he said. “In establishing partnerships, corporate innovation needs to use more of the many available tools to translate these new scientific advances into profitable products.”

Besides cell and gene therapies, formulation was a major topic at the conference. In the pediatrics workshop, Hubert Birner of investor TVM Capital Life Science suggested starting a European “Genzyme in the pediatrics space”. Neglected by the biotech industry, some markets are as attractive as certain orphan disease markets, he suggested. The low-hanging fruits in this space are reformulations of established drugs. The importance of formulation as a means of stabilisation of highly concentrated protein therapeutics, market exclusivity and generation of unique IP were reflected by the results of an industry survey presented by Rentschler Biopharma and formulation specialist Leukocare AG.

The bold title of the opening plenary session “Europe: The global innovation trailblazer” was questioned by panelist Onno van de Stolpe. The CEO of the listed Belgian drug developer Galapagos NV said that the European biotech ecosystem still misses big independent biotech companies like Gilead or Regeneron in the US. In terms of commercialising its products, small and midsize European drug developers are far too dependent on Big Pharma. “I do wish European entrepreneurs the stamina to fight hostile takeover bids. Hopefully, such big biotech companies exist in ten years from now,” van de Stolpe said.

Event organiser EBD Group estimated new record numbers concerning both, attendees (4,400) and partnering meetings (28,000) for the first BIO-Europe event organised outside German-language territory.

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