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.

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

Opposition Trends in the Life Sciences Sector

We published this report to help tackle the key questions our clients ask regularly. In spring 2019, we undertook 350 hours of research, analysing more than 5,000 opposition cases filed at the European Patent Office over the last ten years, studying the timelines for hundreds of oppositions both before and after the EPO’s opposition streamlining initiative.

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London

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Partner, European Patent Attorney
Bristol

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FORWARD MAGAZINE - NEW EDITION!

Will the world's most dangerous microbes soon meet their match? Forward finds out what's in the pipeline when it comes to stopping superbugs. We also look at the growth of biotech in Singapore, the rise of bioinformatics and the circular plastic economy - subscribe to download your copy. 

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.

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