Biopharmaceuticals: Economic data and advances in treatment thanks to antibodies

The new Biotech-Report describing the situation of medical biotechnology in Germany is now available. It was provided by 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. In addition to key economic data on medical biotechnology in Germany in 2020, the focus of this year’s report is on progresses for patients through antibody therapies as well as on the production site Germany for biopharmaceuticals.

Stilisierte 3D-Darstellung eines Antikörpers

Key economic data on medical biotechnology in Germany for 2020 at a glance:

  • Sales of biopharmaceuticals (in the pharmacy and hospital market) increased by 14% relative to 2019, to €14.6 billion. The share of this revenue as a percentage of the total pharmaceuticals market increased from 29.0% to 30.8%. Nearly all fields of medical application saw growth.
  • Biosimilars grow quickly in Germany after their market launch; within the first year after launch, they achieved significant market share of up to 60%, some of them even more. On average, they made up 52% of sales in the corresponding biopharmaceutical segment in 2020.
  • 25 newly approved biopharmaceuticals accounted for 45% of all new approvals.
  • The pipeline grew by 2.7%, with the number of biopharmaceutical compounds in clinical development rising within the space of one year from 640 to 657.
  • Companies active in medical biotechnology continue to hire. With expansion of 5.4%, the workforce grew considerably, to over 44,600—a new record.

Focus recombinant antibodies

The focus of the Biotech-Report 2021 is on recombinant antibodies, which are important innovative therapies for diseases that, up to now, can be treated only insufficiently or not at all. By the end of 2020, 82 molecules of this class of active substances had already been approved in Germany, twice as many as five years ago. With 32% of all approved biopharmaceuticals, antibodies form the most important group and are used in many different medical applications. Antibodies are also contributing to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the help of recombinant DNA technology, completely new antibody formats not found in nature can also be realized: antibody derivatives. They feature improved functionality such as lower immunogenicity, a longer half-life, or the binding of more than one antigen.

Production site Germany for biopharmaceuticals

Schläuche und Rohre führen in einen stählernen Fermenterkessel.Germany as a production site for biopharmaceuticals is characterized by both light and shadow: Only in the USA are more active biopharmaceutical substances with EU approval produced – Germany is still number 2 in the world in this regard. However, it has fallen two places in terms of production capacities (based on the volume of fermenters) since 2018 and is now in only fifth place. One reason for this is the tax framework, which is not competitive compared to other countries where much more is invested in biopharmaceutical production.

Recommendations for medical biotechnology in Germany

The Covid-19 pandemic poses major challenges for Germany, Europe, and the world. Rather than a return to the status quo ante, the pandemic should be used as an opportunity to reduce bureaucracy and specifically strengthen promising and innovative industries and technologies such as drug research, development and production, including medical biotechnology, in Germany. In particular, this means

  • securing and expanding production in Germany,
  • using the opportunities of digitalization,
  • removing administrative hurdles in clinical trials,
  • improving framework conditions for the supply of venture and innovation capital, and
  • strengthening the networking and cooperation of all stakeholders of the healthcare system.

Regarding these points, if all involved players work together to implement them, Germany's chances of standing its ground in international competition will be good—to the benefit of patients, society, and the country as a whole.