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Health Matters
October 24, 2019

Big Business in Biologics

MHT Partners  | Healthcare Investment Bank

What are biologics? As the “bio” prefix suggests, biologics are drugs derived from living organisms, rather than traditional chemically synthesized drugs. They are also big business, representing six of the top eight drugs by total revenue and generating over $219 billion globally in 2016. [1]

Considering that the first real biologic came to market with human insulin in 1982, these therapies’ rise has been nothing short of meteoric. [2] Warwick Smith, Director of the British Biosimilars Association explains that:

Over the past 30 years, we’ve seen a shift from the new innovative “blockbuster” medicines – synthesized chemicals – to biological medicines. It’s a big change for the industry as a whole but patients benefit because [these treatments] are grown from living cultures, they can be designed to link to specific parts of the body, and therefore can be more specific and effective for certain conditions compared to chemicals. [2]

These therapies, then, offer a degree of biological adaptability and precision unseen in many of the chemically synthesized “small molecule” drugs that dominated the twentieth-century pharmaceutical landscape.

While biologics are an extremely innovative class of therapies, biologics development brings a unique set of challenges. Specifically, these drugs are massive. While small molecule drugs are often made up of a handful of atoms (aspirin, for example, consists of 21 atoms), biologics consist of thousands (IgG Antibodies, large biologics, consist of about 25,000 atoms). [3] Because of their size, it is often difficult to exactly replicate any individual biologic; instead, researchers and organizations often repeat processes to create incredibly similar mixtures of molecules. Additionally, the Arizona Bioindustry Association explains that “proteins have unique structural organization patterns (referred to as “folding”) that affect the way they work in the body; even biologics that are chemically the same may have differing biological effects due to differences in the structural folding.” [3]

The confluence of biologics’ significant innovation potential and unique research and development challenges has spawned widespread demand for organizations with deep biologics knowledge and specialization, and investors have taken notice. Private equity firm Riverside Partners, for example, partnered with BioAgilytix Labs, a biologics-focused contract research organization, in 2013 and sold the Company to Cobepa in late 2018. Additionally, Ampersand Capital Partners has developed an extensive portfolio of partnerships across the biologics value chain, from biologics raw material provider Key Biologics to biologics-focused research organization LakePharma to Bioventus, a provider of orthopedic biologics therapies. [4]

As a leading healthcare services investment bank, advising innovative niche market leaders, MHT Partners closely follows developments across the biologics value chain and anticipates the volume of deals consummated with firms specializing in biologics to increase in the coming years.

[1] Statista, Mordor Intelligence
[2] ChemistryWorld
[4] Company websites, Capital IQ

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