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Benefit of Vaccines for People and Society

The new biotech report describing the situation of medical biotechnology in Germany is now available. It was provided by The Boston Consulting Group for vfa bio. This yearly report is the only one recording all activities within medical biotechnology in Germany – ranging from startup to big companies.

Key economic data on medical biotechnology in Germany in 2015 at a glance:

  • Sales of biopharmaceuticals increased by 9.7% in 2015 relative to 2014, amounting to approximately €8.2 billion. The share of biopharmaceuticals in the total pharmaceutical market (pharmacy and hospital market) increased from 22.0% to 22.9%. Growth was seen in nearly all fields of application, especially in the segment of drugs against immunological (e.g., rheumatic) diseases and cancer.
  • The number of—mostly highly qualified— employees in medical biotechnology increased to 40,252 (+6.7%).
  • With 50 newly approved drugs, 2015 was a record year; this was the highest figure in over 10 years and included 15 biopharmaceuticals (30%)—more than ever before.
  • The number of biopharmaceuticals in clinical development increased from 604 to 627 (+4%) within the year, reflecting the continued high investments in the biopharmaceutical pipeline. The pipeline increased especially strongly in the early phase of clinical development (+11% in phase I).
  • The number of companies in Germany active in medical biotechnology was 391 in 2015 (2014: 389). Of these, 117 were already marketing biopharmaceuticals and/or had their own innovative product pipelines; the remaining 274 companies contributed their technology platforms for drug development without developing any drugs on their own.

However, Germany still has several regional deficits compared to other countries. For instance, it is unattractive internationally to venture capitalists due to the unfavorable tax conditions, such as the restrictive rules on loss carry-forward. More funds and a wider range of investors are needed to finance the growth of biotechnology start-ups. Examples from other countries demonstrate how the funding situation could be improved.

The focus of this year's report is on vaccines against infectious diseases caused by pathogens like bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Vaccines are as relevant today as ever, if not even more so due to modern lifestyles. Next to antibiotics and clean water/hygiene, vaccines are one of the key pillars of the fight against infectious diseases and thus the indispensable backbone of life in the modern, globalized world. Finally, prevention through vaccination represents a comparably small investment relative to the enormous benefit to the individual and to society. The cost of vaccination has remained low in Germany for many years, amounting to around €1.4 billion in 2015 (less than 1% of the total expenditure of statutory health insurers). Protection against 14 (for men) or 15 (for women) infectious diseases costs a mere €20–23 per insured person per year. That much health at such a small cost is hard to find elsewhere.

Optimally providing people with vaccines requires synergistic efforts on two levels in parallel: First, acceptance of vaccines in the population has to be increased; and second, the conditions have to be right to ensure that vaccine manufacturers continue to invest in research and development for innovative vaccines. This would lead to the necessary sustainability guaranteed by a diversity of manufacturers and products and would allow vaccines—including those still in development today—to contribute to the benefit to the individual, society, and Germany as a business location.