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NHL market may demand bio-pharma partnerships

Demand is intensifying for new therapeutic options for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) due to its relapsing nature and increased prevalence among Europe's aging population, according to a new market analysis.

Demand is intensifying for new therapeutic options for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) due to its relapsing nature and increased prevalence among Europe's aging population, according to a new market analysis.

While several biotech companies have promising drugs currently in phase III trials, in order to maximise their contribution to improving therapy Europe's pharma industry should pursue strategic alliances and/or the acquisition of pipeline products. 

Frost and Sullivan's (F&S) 'European Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Therapeutics Markets', part of its Pharma & Biotech Growth Partnership Service Programme, advises smaller biotech companies developing encouraging 'add-on' or 'stand alone' NHL drugs to "focus on research and find a suitable marketing partner". 

The European NHL market, which generated revenues of USD2.2bn in 2006, is expected to reach USD7.2bn over the next five years, according to F&S' forecast. Around that time, the market will be ready to accelerate, with several new products already being positioned as add-on combinations to the current standard (and largely genericised) CHOP chemotherapy and MabThera monoclonal antibody options.

Ranjith Gopinathan, research analyst at F&S, said:"ìThough MabThera is very popular and has gained widespread acceptance, there still exists a high unmet need among NHL patients. Add-on drugs, in combination with MabThera or chemotherapy, are a prospective market driver."

The number of products in development today verifies this forecast for intensified interest. Today, there are approximately 51 drugs in late-stage trials for NHL, of which 40 are in phase II and 11 in phase III, according to data provided by pipeline intelligence analyst, Pharmaprojects (www.pharmaprojects.com).

Risks and opportunities

MabThera has reached maturity phase and is presently "satisfying" most oncologists treating NHL, the report notes. Therefore, new drugs that can be used in combination with MabThera and standard chemotherapy (rather than as direct replacements) will stand the best chance of acceptance among doctors and patients, said Gopinathan.

The prospects are good, as the oncology market commands premium prices and there is now an unmet need for MabThera relapsed cases. However, in order to ensure that new drugs reach the market successfully and on time, particularly those under development by smaller-sized biotech companies, manufacturers should see that they gain access to pharma's marketing and market-access experience and support.

With so many research-based biotech outfits facing losses as well as dealing with stricter clinical and regulatory hurdles, the support of a larger partner could become invaluable, he concluded.

Approximately 1.75m people globally suffer from NHL; the incidence in Europe is growing at 5-6 per cent each year. For the full report, contact Frost & Sullivan (www.pharma.frost.com).

29th January 2008

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