21st Century Blockbusters Give Pharma Industry a Shot in the Arm

The “little blue pill” is known around the world without even having to say its name. Pfizer has reaped billions in profits from it, making Viagra one of the world’s most lucrative drugs.

However, with the dawn of 21st century genomics-driven, target-based drug discovery, industry headlines proclaimed the death of the blockbuster drug era. Its replacement: precision medicine, patient stratification and drug repositioning. Analysts questioned how pharmaceutical companies would meet shareholder expectations in this next phase of the industry’s lifecycle.

Thomson Reuters analysis of the State of Pharmaceutical Industry Innovation shows that, while the traditional blockbuster drug model may have seen its day, the industry is far from needing life support. In fact, it is one of the few that showed an increase in year-over-year activity, by 11.5%. And the emergence of a new era of blockbuster drugs is here, as evidenced by the 2015 Thomson Reuters Drugs to Watch forecast.

China is the rising star in terms of leading this burst in pharmaceutical activity, holding two of the top five slots for the most active innovators globally: Chinese Academy of Sciences (first) and University of Henan (third). Even semiconductor and telecoms giant Samsung Electronics appears among the top innovators in this sector, taking the #17 slot globally for pharmaceutical innovation.

Germany leads the world in terms of the most impactful pharmaceutical academic research, with Goethe University Frankfurt Hospital, Ernst Moritz Arndt Universitat, University of Duisburg Essen, and University of Bonn taking the first, third, fourth and fifth slots. Second place for the most impactful research goes to Gilead Sciences (U.S.), developer of Hepatitis C breakthrough treatment Sovaldi.

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Patent Activity



Change from 2013
*Unique innovations may be represented in multiple subsectors.

Top 5 Companies

  • 1 Chinese Acad Sci 481
  • 2 Univ Henan 381
  • 3 Univ Zhejiang 320
  • 4 Seiko Epson 300
  • 5 Univ Jiangnan 290
  • 1 Roche 400
  • 2 Sanofi 294
  • 3 Novartis 233
  • 4 Bayer Pharma 197
  • 5 CNRS 196
  • 1 Abbott Cardiovascular 338
  • 2 Univ California 324
  • 3 Merck Sharp & Dohme 225
  • 4 Allergan 165
  • 5 Univ Texas System 163

(Patent Data as of March 2015) Total number of documents by region