Size Matters to Industry

Large molecules are more likely to make it to market these days than small molecules, according to new reports.

Apr 11, 2012
Edyta Zielinska

FLICKR, STEVE SNODGRASS

A number of recent reports are highlighting the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is solidly moving in favor of the large molecule drugs known as biologics.  Although they are more difficult to make than small molecule compounds, they are also more difficult to reproduce generically, which may give companies a longer market advantage than for small molecule drugs.

Companies are making biologics a bigger part of their drug portfolios, with patent filings for this class of drugs increasing even while the overall patent numbers have gone down in recent years, according to a recent report by the law firm Withers & Rogers.  Another study by the biopharma consultancy company KMR Group showed that large molecule drugs also have a better chance of winning approval from the US Food and Drug Administration than small molecule products.

Why are small molecules getting short shrift? “It may be that large molecule development, in general, is more targeted ,” Joseph DiMasi, director of economic analysis for Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, told Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. As a result, he said, their “safety issues may be less prevalent.”