Biopharma, big pharmaceuticals and the state are all likely to need a lot more money next year as the pace of innovation in the field of drug development and delivery increases.
A report by the Irish Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (ICSI) said that the biotechnology sector had seen a significant increase in revenue of €1.3 billion to €5.9 billion in 2019, while the pharma sector had increased by €1 billion to nearly €5 billion.
In terms of gross revenue, the pharmas sector generated almost €8.6 billion in 2020 and the biopharmas sector was the largest single contributor of €6.7 billion.
The report also said that while the state was likely to face the greatest challenges in the biotech sector, it would be unable to control all of the sector.
“In 2019, the state will need to provide financial support for biopharma as its revenues will increase by around €2 billion to be able to cope with the growing demand,” it said.
“While the state has a strong economic position, the sector is also dependent on the continued investment of the private sector and on the biosecurity measures taken by the national government.”
It said the growth in biotechnology was partly a result of the growth of the global market, and the “federal Government’s policy of investment and support for small businesses”.
The report highlighted a number of issues that the industry faces.
In particular, it said that “the pace of growth in the market for biotechnology-derived drugs, particularly in terms of the number of drugs, is likely to slow down further” in the coming years.
This could see the growth rate of biotechnology in the pharmaceutical industry “slow down, or even reverse” if the number and quality of drugs available are not kept up.
This would mean that, over time, the number, quality and cost of medicines would have to be further reduced to make the industry competitive with the pharmaceuticals industry.
The ICSI said that, while this was not necessarily bad news, it was “not ideal” for the sector, as it would mean the pharmaceutical companies would have “little incentive to invest in the research and development of their own drugs”.
“The pharmaceutical sector, however, is already well funded and has a well-established pipeline of research projects, and there is the possibility that, with continued investment, the pharmaceutical sector could achieve some of its growth goals in the future,” it added.
The report also highlighted the “possibility of some new entrants in the sector”, and the need to be more strategic in the funding of the industry.
This was “particularly important” if biotechnology were to become the “new normal” in Ireland.
It said that a number companies were “developing new drug treatments”, and these could be included in the ICSIR report.
It added that “there is a clear need for a review of the current approach in the development and commercialisation of biomedicine” in light of the challenges facing the industry, and a focus on new opportunities.
In particular, the report highlighted the need for the industry to focus on developing new drugs that would be more effective and more effective at delivering the outcomes that the pharmaceutical company was looking for.
This should include “the development of an effective, cost-effective and cost-efficient delivery system for biomedics, which can also be the first step towards enabling the production of more effective products that will improve the quality of life for patients”.
There is also a need to improve the “efficiency of the biomeds business” and to create “a more flexible business model”.
This should be based on the fact that “a biomed company will need a larger base of investors and investors will need support to develop and expand their business”.
The ICSIB also highlighted that there was a need for greater transparency, “including by a new reporting mechanism”.
It said “the sector must be more transparent, and have more clarity in terms on how much funding and how many of its investments it is contributing to the government in the form of tax incentives, grants and loans”.
A new, robust regulatory framework is needed to enable the biologics sector to remain competitive, said ICSII President, Brendan Coogan.
It also called for the development of a “competence system” that would provide a means for “all stakeholders to monitor the performance of the companies that are investing in the new biomed system”.
It also said “there must be a greater focus on the research, development and production of drugs for a long time, rather than a short time”.
More research funding will be needed, but that would also be “the answer to the problem of the funding shortage”, he added.