Asset licensing, mergers, and acquisitions have become an integral pipeline expansion strategy for Pharma. The realization over the past two decades that productivity of internal R&D alone is unsustainable coincides with an increase in discovery collaborations, the in-licensing of early, preclinical, and clinical stage drug candidates, and the acquisition of innovative biotech companies. Concurrently, early partnering can provide many small biotech or pharmaceutical companies with validation and much needed capital for expanding R&D efforts in other areas, enabling diversification of their pipelines, and mitigating risk. Alternatively, acquisition of a biotech by Pharma is an ideal exit strategy for many small companies’ initial investors.

What is Pharma searching for?

Stage of asset development, therapeutic area, and asset differentiation are all important factors for gaining the attention of Pharma. Many Pharma companies provide specific web pages that detail their BD interests precisely, while others offer downloadable pdf brochures that publicly disclose their therapeutic area partnering interests.

We assembled a list of 64 pharma companies with market capitalizations of greater than $10B USD and that provide partnering web pages or pdf’s on their websites (Table 1), offered here as a resource. The information provided by Pharmas can indicate either broad descriptions of diseases of interest or more precise details of target indications, modalities, stages of development, and even specific pathways that are considered in scope. We have compiled this information and have provided links to each company’s partnering and “therapeutic areas of interest” webpages or their downloadable content and have listed each company’s stated partnering interests as of 07/25/2021.

Which therapeutic areas have the highest probability of attracting attention?

In order to answer this question, we standardized the areas of partnering interest (Table 2) according to those used by a majority of companies or, when there was no commonly used specification, we selected a suitable grouping. Using these standardized groupings, companies indicated 1 – 11 areas of interest, with a mean of 4.9 and a median of 5.0. The most popular areas of partnering interest listed by the 64 Pharma companies were Oncology (67%), Neuroscience (55%), and Immunology (55%), followed by Infectious diseases (45%), Endocrine/Metabolic (41%), Cardiovascular (38%), and Rare/Genetic (27%) (Figure 1).

The greater proportion of companies interested in oncology, immunology, and neuroscience suggests that a biotech company may have a higher probability of attracting the attention of Pharma if its drug development programs target these therapeutic areas. However, while Rare/Genetic diseases are of interest to only 27% of Pharma companies in the filtered list, orphan status protections for these indications can provide additional incentives that often prove to be very attractive to Pharma.

Partnering guidance

Whether or not your company is developing a therapeutic for a ‘hot’ indication or drug target, it is crucial to be prepared in advance of reaching out to potential partners. The entire partnering process for a pharmaceutical asset can take over a year to complete, depending on a number of factors such as the type of molecule and disease indication, how advanced the program is in development, what volume of data has to be considered, how competitive the space is, and how complex the deal terms are. Alacrita has considerable experience in supporting companies with partnering and can provide assistance across the entire partnering process.

To ensure your asset is ready for partnering, we recommend the following initial work plan related to materials preparation and partner screening:

    • Build a virtual data room
    • Mock due diligence and gap analysis
    • Prepare non-confidential (NC) and confidential pitch decks
    • Identify and prioritize prospective partners for outreach

Alacrita can assist you with these steps, and our network of expert associates ensures we have the scientific and business expertise on hand to highlight the strengths of your asset and express its value. If you are already in discussions with potential partners, we can provide you with a deal comparables analysis, sales forecast and rNPV asset valuation, and/or transactional support to ensure that deal terms are fair. Alternatively, if your company is in a position to in-license an asset, our team of asset scouting experts can help you source and evaluate assets that meet your search criteria and enable you to diversify your pipeline.

Table 1. Pharma Partnering Interests

Company General Partnering Webpages Company Areas of Interest Webpage Areas of Interest List
AbbVie Inc Immunology, Oncology, Neuroscience, Cystic Fibrosis, Retinal degeneration, Glaucoma, Body aesthetics (facial and body filling, breast reconstruction/augmentation, and regenerative soft tissue repair), Women's Health, Virology
Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc Rare diseases in Hematology, Nephrology, Neurology, Metabolic Disorders, breakthrough therapies for rare diseases outside of our core focus.
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc  RNAi therapeutics for genetic diseases, cardiometabolic diseases, infectious diseases, and central nervous system (CNS) and ocular diseases
Amgen Inc Oncology/Hematology, Cardiovascular Disease, Bone Heatlh, Nephrology, Inflammation, Neuroscience
Astellas Pharma Inc Oncology, Urology, Nephrology, Immunology, Neuroscience, Muscle Diseases, ophthalmology, Regenerative Medicine, Vaccines, Gene Therapy
AstraZeneca plc

Oncology, Cardiovascular, Renal, Metabolism, Respiratory & Immunology, autoimmunity, infection & vaccines, neuroscience and gastroenterology
Baxter International Inc In-Hospital Solutions and Therapeutics, Medical devices, Diagnostic tools, Renal therapies
Bayer AG  Cardiology, hematology, oncology, women's healthcare, ophthalmology, radiology
BeiGene Ltd  Cancer (molecular targets), immuno-oncology therapies, combination therapies
Biogen Inc MS & neuroimmunology, neuromuscular disorders (SMA, ALS), movement disorders (Parkinson's), Alzheimer's & dementia, ophthalmology, neuropsychiatry, immunology, acute neurology, neuropathic pain
BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc Genetic therapies for rare diseases 
Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH CardioMetabolic Diseases, CNS Diseases, Immunology, Oncology & Cancer Immunology, Respiratory Diseases, Retinal Health
Bristol Myers Squibb Co  Solid tumors, hematology, cardiovascular, immunology, fibrotic diseases, neuroscience, translational medicine, cell therapy
Celltrion Inc Biosimilars (cancer, autoimmune disease, Osteoporosis, Asthma, IBS, dyslipidemia), novel antibody drugs (infectious disease, cancer, autoimmune), vaccines, fusion technology
Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products Co Ltd Vaccines
Chugai Pharmaceutical Co Ltd Technology research and genetic analysis for therapeutic antibodies;
At Fuji Gotemba Research Laboratories focus on bone and joint, renal, hematologic and immune diseases, cancer
CSL Behring Immunology, Hematology & Thrombosis, Transplant, Respiratory, Cardiovascular & Metabolic
CSPC Pharmaceutical Group Ltd Oncology, autoimmunity, psychiatry and neurology, digestion and metabolism, cardio-cerebrovascular system and anti-infectives
Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd  Oncology, rare diseases (monogenic, non-monogenic), CNS,  ophthalmology, chronic heart failure, immunology
Dr Reddy's Laboratories Ltd Oncology, gastroenterology, cardiovascular, anti-diabetic, dermatology, pain
Eisai Co Ltd Neurology, Oncology
Eli Lilly & Co Loxo Oncology, neurodegenerative disease, pain & migraine, diabetes and related complications, immunology, new therapeutic modalities
Fresenius SE & Co KGaA (Fresenius Kabi) I.V. generic drugs, infusion therapies and clinical nutrition products, biosimilars (autoimmune disease, oncology), transfusion technology
Gan & Lee Pharmaceuticals Recombinant human insulin and insulin analogs
Genmab A/S Antibody therapeutics (cancer, autoimmune conditions, inflammation, central nervous system conditions and infectious diseases)
Gilead Sciences Inc  HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, Liver Disease, Hematology/Oncology, Cardiovascular, Inflammation/Respiratory
GlaxoSmithKline plc Respiratory, HIV/Infectious Disease, Vaccines, Oncology, Immune system, Human Genetics, Advanced Technologies
Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd CNS, oncology, anti-infectives, diabetes, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular
Horizon Therapeutics plc  Endocrinology, Nephrology, Neuroimmunology, Opthalmology, Rare diseases, Rheumatology
Hualan Biological Engineering Inc Blood and vaccine products
Incyte Corp Oncology, Inflammation, Autoimmunity
Innovent Biologics Inc  Oncology, autoimmune, metabolic diseases, ophthalmology
Japan Tobacco Inc (agreement with Torii Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. To develop drugs)  Glucose and lipid metabolism, immune disorders and inflammation, virus research
Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine Co Ltd (R&D division Shanghai Hengrui Pharmaceutical Co)  Tumor and diabetes drugs, expand the field of protein and antibody biopharmaceuticals
Johnson & Johnson  Cardiovascular & Metabolism; Immunology; Infectious Diseases & Vaccines; Neuroscience; Oncology; and Pulmonary Hypertension
Kirin Holdings Co Ltd (Kyowa Kirin division)
Therapeutic antibodies (oncology, nephrology, central nervous system and immunology), small molecule drugs, nucleic acid drugs, regenerative medicine
LG Chem Ltd[15].pdf  Has Life Science division with products in diabetes, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, autoimmune, growth hormones, hepatitis B and pentavalent vaccines, aesthetics
Menarini  Oncology, CV/Metabolic, Respiratory, Pain, Anti-infectives, dermatology, aesthetic medicine
Merck & Co Inc Oncology, Vaccines, Infectious Diseases, COVID-19, cardio-metabolic disorders
Merck KGaA  Oncology, Immuno-Oncology, Immunology, Multiple Sclerosis, Fertility
Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp  CNS, Immuno-inflammation, vaccines, diabetes and diabetic nephropathy
Neurocrine Biosciences Inc   Neurological and endocrine related disorders
Novartis AG Oncology, Cardiovascular, Metabolic & Renal Diseases, Immunology & Dermatology, Neuroscience, Ophthalmology, Respiratory Diseases, Cell and Gene Therapy
Novo Nordisk A/S  Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, growth disorders, hemophilia
Ono Pharmaceutical Co Ltd Oncology, Immunology, Neurology, Unmet Medical Needs
Otsuka Holdings Co Ltd Neuroscience, nephrology, autoimmune, oncology, gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular diseases, ophthalmology, dermatology
Pfizer Inc Internal Medicine, Rare Disease, Inflammation & Immunology, Vaccines, Oncology
Recordati SpA  Urology, Cardiovascular, Metabolic diseases, Gastrointestinal, Allergy, CNS, Rare diseases, particularly in the endocrinology and metabolic areas
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc Cardiovascular/Metabolic diseases, Infectious diseases, Inflammation and Immunology, Oncology, Hematology, Ophthalmology, Neurology, Rare Diseases
Roche Holding AG Oncology and cancer immunotherapy, immunology, infectious diseases, neuroscience, ophthalmology, rare diseases
Sanofi SA  Immunology, Oncology, Neuroscience, Rare Diseases, Vaccines, Diabetes, Cardiovascular
Seagen Inc Hodgkin lymphoma, cutaneous and peripheral T-cell lymphoma (CTCL, PTCL), cancer (breast, lung, bladder, ovarian)
Servier  Oncology, Neuroscience, Immune-Inflammatory Diseases
Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd Metabolism and digestive tract, anti-tumor, anti-infective, CNS, cardiovascular, blood diseases, vaccine
Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products Co Ltd Vaccines
Shionogi & Co Ltd  Infectious disease, pain CNC (novel mechanisms), novel modalities
Sino Biopharmaceutical Ltd 
Liver disease, tumor, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, orthopedics, digestive system, anti-infection and respiratory diseases
Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd  CNS, Cardiovascular, Women Health, Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Oncology, Anti-Infectives and Gastro therapies, orphan indications

India:  CNS disorders, Cardiology, Diabetes and Metabolic disorders, Gastroenterology, Ophthalmology, Oncology, Pain, Rheumatology, Allergy, Asthma and Inflammation and Gynecology
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd Oncology, Rare Diseases, Neuroscience, and Gastroenterology (GI), Plasma-Derived Therapies, Vaccines
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd  Novel biologics, biosimilars, small molecule specialty medicines (respiratory, pain, migraine and headache, movement and neurodegenerative disorders, and oncology), generics and over-the-counter therapies
UCB SA  Neurology, immunology, rare diseases
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc Cystic fibrosis, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD, Sickle Cell Disease and Beta Thalassemia, Pain, APOL1-Mediated Kidney Disease, new platform technologies that will enable exploration of new diseases or disease targets
Yunnan Baiyao Group Co Ltd Chinese patent medicines, Chinese traditional medicines, biological products, health food, cosmetics and beverages, and medical devices
Zai Lab Ltd  Oncology, auto-immune and infectious disease

Table 2. Standardized pharma partnering interests


*Miscellaneous includes hospital, generics, internal medicine, orthopedics, medical devices, Chinese traditional medicine

Figure 1. Percentage of companies expressing interest in standardized therapeutic area.


Our BD experience

With deep experience on both the buy and sell-side, we work with our clients to ensure that partnership, licensing and investment decisions are taken with confidence, with clear alignment between transaction price and asset value. Click here for more information on our Business Development services.