With biologics set to revolutionize the future of healthcare, the growing success of therapeutic antibodies has generated a storm of interest. According to Yingzhu Li, Ph.D., Information Scientist and a contributing author on this blog post, antibody drugs are the largest and most promising class of biologics now widely used across many fields, including cancer, immune disease and inflammation. Thanks to important advances in biotechnology, such as the phage display method that won a share of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the scope of these drugs is now evolving at an unprecedented pace.
With the rising potential for lucrative financial returns—the global market for therapeutic antibodies is expected to reach $115 billion in 2022—drug companies are investing heavily, which in turn is further fueling R&D developments in this area. For companies looking to expand their portfolios or jump into antibody therapeutics for the first time, the challenge is staying abreast of new developments. To help, CAS collaborated with the National Science Laboratory, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NSLC) to produce a whitepaper giving a detailed picture of the industry landscape, shedding light on emerging trends to identify potential commercial opportunities. We've summarized the highlights for you here.
How is the global market of antibody drugs evolving?
Studying the market can help you pinpoint areas of growth and interest, identify potential collaborators and make more informed decisions about where to allocate your investment, resources and time. Looking at the overall market, we see a dramatic expansion over the last thirty years, with a continual and sustained increase in the publication of scientific journal articles and patents. Through 2017, more than 130,000 journal articles and 275,000 patent applications have been published on therapeutic antibodies. Not surprisingly, the number of therapeutic antibody-related substances registered by CAS has also steadily increased, implying a growing output of new drugs and technologies.
Examining the market in more detail allows us to highlight the variation in research output between different countries. Globally, the U.S. is a strong leader, generating overwhelmingly more journal articles and patented technologies than any other country. China, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom ranked second to fifth, respectively.
Where might future interest lie?
Delving deeper into the data reveals new and growing sectors that will help you make well-informed decisions about your company's investments, giving you a competitive edge. For example, two new antibody subclasses appear to represent a new frontier of antibody drug development. These two subclasses (single chain variable fragment-based antibodies and nanobodies) are drugs engineered from only part of the antibody molecule. Being smaller than whole antibodies, they can penetrate human tissues more easily and can be used to develop other types of drugs, such as bispecific antibodies and fusion protein drugs. This expanding sector of the market is likely to yield new opportunities.
Another example relates to the drug targets rather than the drugs themselves. The targets most studied in the literature today are likely to become the focus for antibody drug discovery and development programs in subsequent years. Our whitepaper identifies the top 16 most highly studied antibody targets over the last thirty years (e.g., CD20, VEGF, HER2, TNFα, EGFR) and highlights those intensely studied over the last five years.
Two of these targets, CTLA-4 and PD-1, are immune checkpoint proteins—therapeutic targets originally identified by the 2018 Nobel Prize winners in Physiology or Medicine. Antibody drugs targeting these immune checkpoints can enhance the ability of T cells to effectively attack cancer cells. Given the focus of research on these checkpoints, it is likely that antibody drugs will maintain their role as a major driver for cancer immunotherapy in the years ahead.
Exploring the literature can also give us valuable clues about the possibility of drug repurposing. Finding new applications for existing drugs can provide novel avenues for research and uncover new business opportunities. By studying the complex associations between antibody drugs, therapeutic targets and disease areas, you can identify interesting associations for further study.
Realizing the potential of antibody drugs
Given their growing success and future promise, it is likely that antibody drugs will play a major future role in healthcare, and the expansion of this sector will raise new opportunities where you could gain a competitive edge. However, to fully leverage the potential of these drugs, you need to understand the complex and rapidly evolving market. The whitepaper produced by CAS and the NSLC can help here, giving you a comprehensive market overview and allowing you to identify areas of interest and investment.
Need to more closely monitor developments in therapeutic antibodies or other areas important to your work? Learn how CAS can help.