Harris Kaplan told “The Pink Sheet” that the autoimmune and inflammatory therapeutic category is “an area with a lot of sizzle and a lot of steak.” The high unmet medical need and willingness by payers to reimburse for care has made the area interesting to larger drug makers despite the smaller market sizes for medicines treating these conditions. Kaplan selected projects for the autoimmune/inflammatory category and presented them at the Therapeutic Partnership Conference (refer to previous “press” note). He selected the projects based on a number of criteria, including the strength of the science, the history of the molecules under development, and the potential diversity of indications. In fact, one additional reason for the growing interest in this therapeutic area, Kaplan told “The Pink Sheet,” is the realization that drugs targeting autoimmune or inflammatory diseases may also have utility in oncology, as well as other more common diseases, from cardiovascular disorders to asthma.
Projects were either novel molecules of interest, with as yet unproven mechanisms of action, or known molecules with improved characteristics (efficacy, dosing, etc) over current products. “The paradigm of first-in-class or best-in-class is out-dated now,” Kaplan said. Now “the paradigm of choice is differentiation. If you don’t have a differentiated product, you will have a tough time with payers.” Despite increasing payer scrutiny, according to “The Pink Sheet,” this therapeutic class continues to make a lot of money – the analysis company EvaluatePharma predicted a market growing at a 10 percent annual compounded rate until it reaches $28 billion in 2014. Kaplan said, “It remains to be seen how long the favorable economics last. For now there is still a window of opportunity.”