Perhaps more than any other industry, the pharma sector has historically relied on long-term, high-risk R&D projects. It also faces the unique challenges of innovating within a strictly regulated framework, often under intense public scrutiny.

Medicines in some form have existed since the beginnings of human civilisation but it was not until the 19th century that the pharmaceutical industry, as we know it today, emerged from the amalgamation of modern biology, synthetic chemistry and free enterprise.

The basic goal - to find new and better medicines to treat patients - has of course remained unchanged. However, the challenges associated with meeting that goal are always evolving, as are the research tools available to do so. Demand for medicines globally is rising, and is likely to continue to rise, due to factors such as aging populations, obesity-related illnesses and increasing life expectancy and incomes in emerging economies.

The landscape is also changing. Targeted or precision medicines, matched to the patients most likely to benefit from them, are becoming the gold standard. This trend has been greatly assisted by the mapping of the human genome, as well as advances in diagnostic methods.

In the current pandemic, governments, research organisations and pharmaceutical companies are taking action to streamline the research and development (R&D) and clinical trials processes for treatments aimed at COVID-19. This has led some to question whether this rapidity will translate, post-COVID-19, to the wider industry, with emergence of a new paradigm for fast-track R&D and approval.

The concept that ‘prevention is better than cure’, a fundamental principle of modern healthcare, is also now a focus for pharmaceutical companies, who are increasingly seeking drugs which prevent disease, as well as treating it (the famous example being Truvada, for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV). The rise of  so-called ‘superbugs’ (antibiotic-resistant microbes) is also a growing concern, as the rate at which resistance to existing drugs is emerging appears to be speeding up.

Pharmaceutical companies spend on average 17% of revenues on research and development (R&D), one of the highest R&D spends of any industry. However, it is important to remember that the sector does not comprise only ‘Big Pharma’. A huge amount of pharmaceutical innovation originates in the laboratories of universities and research organisations.

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Special Report

Validation Strategies for Pharmaceutical Patents in Europe

The decision on where to validate a pharmaceutical European patent is a big one, with costs often precluding an “everywhere” approach.  Our special report explores the choices and factors to consider and seeks to answer questions such as:

  • Which countries are most commonly picked by patent holders at the EPO?
  • Is the distribution the same for pharmaceutical patents?
  • Where does “big pharma” choose to validate?
  • What factors might affect the choice of countries?


Talk to our pharmaceutical specialists

Julie Carlisle

Partner, Patent Attorney

Sarah Kostiuk-Smith

Partner, Patent Attorney

Robert Watson

Partner, Patent Attorney

Simon Kiddle

Partner, Patent Attorney

Kate ORourke

Partner, Chartered Trade Mark Attorney, Solicitor


Partner, Solicitor, Litigator

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Mewburn Ellis


Mewburn Ellis Forward is a biannual publication that celebrates the best of innovation and exploration. Through its pages we hope to inform and entertain, but also to encourage discussion about the most compelling developments taking place in the scientific and entrepreneurial world. Along the way, we’ll engage with the IP challenges that international organisations face every day.