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I/O therapies boosting R&D funding & alliances, says Tufts

Melissa Fassbender

By Melissa Fassbender

09-Mar-2016
Last updated on 10-Mar-2016 at 09:53 GMT2016-03-10T09:53:05Z

The alliances are combining serveral I/O cancer therapies. (Image: iStock)
The alliances are combining serveral I/O cancer therapies. (Image: iStock)

With more than 130 biotech and 20 pharmaceutical companies currently developing immuno-oncology (I/O) therapies, the global oncology market could reach $40bn by 2020, says Tufts.

According to the new report by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD), worldwide I/O sales is expected to see annual revenues from $25bn to $40bn by 2020, up from $2.5bn in 2015

This growth is being driven by new I/O drug investments and improvements in complete response rates in trials for new therapies, which has resulted in an uptick in new alliances between pharmaceutical and biotech companies and university and cancer centers.

According to the report, the total number of I/O oncology alliance R&D funding commitments increased almost tenfold from 2013 to 2015.

The number of I/O alliances between pharma/big biotech and small enterprises grew at a torrid pace, from six in 2013 to 58 in 2015, accounting for $39bn in research commitments over the three years,” according to the Tufts’ release.

AstraZeneca, Roche, and Merck lead with the greatest number of I/O deals with other companies in this time frame. “These alliances are combining a myriad of I/O cancer therapies involving various combinations of new I/O monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), cell therapies, vaccines, and small molecules,” the report said.

Additionally, according to the report, 13 university and cancer institutions have announced research alliances with pharma and biotech companies. These institutions will also likely see increased funding as a result of the government’s “moonshot” initiative , which would provide $1bn in funding.

"The I/O era is off to a promising start," said Ronald Evens, adjunct research professor at Tufts CSDD at Tufts University School of Medicine, who conducted the analysis. "The question is whether research partners can surmount what could be substantial obstacles to further clinical and commercial success."

According to Evens, these challenges include identifying validated biomarkers to increase the chances of clinical success and to reduce development time and cost, in addition to the difficulties of patient recruitment. The cost-benefit metrics payers may adopt in order to guide reimbursement could also pose a challenge, as it has the potential to limit market access and investor returns.

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