Immuno-oncology is expected to continue as one of the most impactful trends in the biopharmaceutical industry in 2021, says GlobalData

The immuno-oncology (IO) therapeutic area is increasingly becoming recognized as the fifth pillar of cancer treatment alongside surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other targeted treatments due to rapid and successful development of the field in recent years.

The company’s latest report, ‘The State of the Biopharmaceutical Industry – 2021’, reveals that IO drug development along with personalized /precision medicine remain the top emerging pharmaceutical industry trends in all geographic regions for 2021 identified by a survey of 198 industry stakeholders.  Both of these areas were identified as the top emerging industry trends by similar surveys in 2019 and 2020.

Claire Herman, MPH, Global Director of Therapy Analysis and Epidemiology at GlobalData commented:  “Second to remote patient monitoring, which came to the forefront in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, IO was identified by survey respondents as an emerging trend expected to have the most impact on the pharmaceutical industry in 2021.”

As IO drug development continues to mature through the demonstration of good efficacy and safety profiles in late-stage trials as well as in clinical practice, companies are seeking label expansions in additional indications as monotherapy, but also developing these drugs in various combinations, leading to increased options for underserved populations.

Fern Barkalow, PhD, Senior Director of Oncology and Hematology at GlobalData commented: “One of the major reasons for IO being viewed as a top emerging pharmaceutical industry trend for 2021 is that the field has consistently yielded relatively safe and effective treatment paradigms for a variety of cancers including those with high unmet needs.”

In addition to the continued development of checkpoint inhibitors in 2021, with many new targets and combinations entering late-stage development, GlobalData anticipates further development of other major IO classes including oncolytic viruses, off the shelf chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies and bi- and tri-specific monoclonal antibodies.

Barkalow continued: “Clinical studies investigating combination partners for IO therapies for use in treating resistant tumors, the optimal sequencing of IO regimens, and retreatment studies are also gaining momentum and should start yielding data in 2021 with approvals on the horizon for the benefit of populations that are currently more difficult to treat for a variety of reasons.”

The global market for immune-oncology therapies was valued at $66B in 2020 and is projected to increase to $180B in 2026 according to GlobalData’s Drug Sales and Consensus Forecast Database.  Pricing and reimbursement continue to remain important issues for this class of drug, with payers requiring demonstration of a high degree of efficacy and cost effectiveness, especially in the more cost-conscious European markets.

Barkalow adds: “One interesting trend to watch in 2021 is the accelerated pace of development of IO drugs for a variety of oncology indications, especially checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T therapies, by local companies in China. Major international IO drug developers currently face a strong degree of competition from local developers and may see reduced uptake of their drugs in China in 2021 and beyond. This may lead to an uptick in the numbers of partnership and licensing agreements utilizing creative strategies, between local pharmaceutical companies in China and larger, international companies in order to reduce competition locally, and help China-based companies commercialize their drugs globally.

Information based on GlobalData’s report: ‘The State of the Biopharmaceutical Industry – 2021’

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