In 2019, drug pricing pressure from regulators, patients, politicians and payers will remain and aggressive negotiation tactics to drive down drug prices are expected, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The company’s latest annual outlook report, ‘The State of the Biopharmaceutical Industry – 2019’, reveals that 51% of global industry respondents believe that drug pricing and reimbursement constraints will have the greatest negative impact on the pharmaceutical industry in 2019.
According to Bonnie Bain, PhD, Global Head of Pharma at GlobalData, this response is not surprising, especially given that increased pressure from the Trump administration led to price freezes in 2018.
Even though Brexit and US political uncertainty were high profile news stories in 2018, the respondents viewed them as a distant second at 11% each. Contrastingly, respondents were mixed on the factors that would have the greatest positive impact. The Rise of China, vertical integration and patent expiry of biologics are expected to have an equal impact at 20% each.
Despite concerns about a trade war between the US and China, it is not a surprise that China is still viewed as a huge market opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry.
The healthcare industry saw several big vertical integrations in 2018 such as Aetna/CVS and Cigna/Express Scripts. These deals are touted as opportunities to gain efficiency and lower cost of care, but it is still too early to determine their long-term impact. The one thing that is certain is that this trend will likely continue in 2019, as the industry looks for new ways to control costs and increase margins.
While 30% of respondents believe that patent expiry of biologics will have a major impact in 2019, GlobalData anticipates that the immediate impact will be less than expected, particularly in the US. Although several biosimilars are now approved in the US, the pace of their subsequent launch and market growth remains slow and most biosimilars still face stiff legal battles. On average, the price differential between biosimilars and their branded counterparts is only about 30% which is significantly less than the cost savings seen with the average generic drug.
Merck, a science and technology company, announced its participation in a collaboration with the Vaccine Formulation Institute and the European Vaccine Initiative. The effort will provide vaccine process development training courses within Transvac2, a collaborative infrastructure project under Horizon 2020.
“Involvement in this project is a natural extension to our longtime focus on accelerating vaccine development and manufacturing,” Udit Batra, member of the Merck Executive Board and CEO, Life Science. “Through the Transvac2 initiative, we are able to lend our expertise in vaccine research and development in this critically important field.”
Funded by the European Commission (EC), Transvac2 exists in part to accelerate vaccine development by enhancing European vaccine research and training and increase sustainability of EC vaccine projects by implementing a permanent research infrastructure for early vaccine development. Merck is among a list of collaborators joining the Transvac2 program.
As part of the program, Merck will hold a two-day training module in 2019 and in 2021 and will host applicants, selected by the Transvac2 Course Selection Panel, at Merck’s recently inaugurated M Lab Collaboration Center in Molsheim, France.
Participants will experience simulated lab processes, which will help them acquire fundamental skills needed for process development and will acquaint them with a single-use environment.
Merck’s focus, to find effective ways to accelerate vaccine development and manufacturing, includes collaborative work with leading research institutes and industries to introduce new technologies that advance the global vaccine industry. For this initiative, Merck is tapping its internal manufacturing expertise and process knowledge in viral vaccines and vectors.
Collaboration extended by a further two years
European Space Agency and Merck Expand Cooperation
Merck, a science and technology company, and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a Letter of Intent to extend by a further two years their cooperation agreement from 2016. The two partners will continue to cooperate intensively in the fields of innovation, digitalization and materials research. With respect to innovation, the focus will be on the fields of Biosensing and Biointerfaces, Clean Meat and Liquid Biopsy technologies.
“It is our goal to continue and intensify the exchange between ESA and Merck in a targeted manner. Scientific progress is the key to improving the lives of millions of people. Partnerships, such as this one with ESA, help to accelerate this progress and thus to achieve objectives faster.”
Kai Beckmann, CEO Performance Materials and member of the Executive Board of Merck
“The profile and strategic interests of both organizations complement each other superbly,” said Rolf Densing, Director of Operations and Head of the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) at ESA. “This allows both partners to openly share and make use of synergies in terms of competences, methods and tools.”
Merck and ESA began cooperating in 2011 and had most recently extended their partnership in 2016. The focus of the agreement signed today is on the following topics:
Innovation: Future projects will be derived from the three strategic innovation fields of the Merck Innovation Center (Biosensing and Biointerfaces, Clean Meat and Liquid Biopsy technologies). The aim is to make contributions that will further the development of human space exploration.
Moreover, both partners will further share their experience and competence in the area of innovation processes, for instance, in stimulating innovation in both organizations in the context of the Merck Innovation Center or via the newly established managerial position of Innovation Officer on the ESA side.
The topic of Biosensing and Biointerfaces focuses mainly on the interface between biology and digitalization. By applying data analysis tools, faster and more precise (remote) monitoring and treatment will be enabled in numerous disease areas. The focus of Clean Meat is on the biotechnology required to produce genuine meat grown in vitro. The third innovation field targets technological solutions to overcome unresolved challenges in the liquid biopsy workflow to detect diseases sooner and more readily.
Digitalization: Digitalization offers significant potential for ESA and Merck. Both organizations therefore aim to continue the exchange between their scientists and engineers on new and innovative technologies such as automation and autonomy concepts, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, simulation, and Big Data, and virtual reality methods for laboratory and exploration activities on both sides.
Materials Research: The development of new, high-performance materials is a core activity of ESA and Merck. Potential collaboration fields include liquid crystal technologies, coatings, and semiconductors.
Beyond the specific development of innovations, an intensive dialogue on future topics is also part of the collaboration. For example, in recent years, a series of events and activities have taken place. These include a co-hosted hackathon as well as a presentation by German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter for selected scientists at Merck in Darmstadt. At the Innovation and Leadership in Aerospace Conference in 2018 in Berlin, Kai Beckmann and Rolf Densing were members of a panel discussion entitled “Space meets Non-Space”. As the only non-space industry partner, Merck participated for the second time in a cross-industry challenge at ESA’s second Space Exploration Masters last year. The topic of the winning team was use of bioreactors in space to solve the problem of having an autonomous food and oxygen supply at a lunar base.
The newly appointed Supervisory Board of Merck KGaA re-elected Wolfgang Büchele as its Chairman at its constitutive meeting directly following the 24th Annual General Meeting. Michael Fletterich was also confirmed as Vice Chairman, representing the employee side. Apart from Büchele and Fletterich, four further shareholder representatives were elected by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting in Frankfurt am Main. Moreover, two shareholder representatives were directly appointed by E. Merck KG. The eight employee representative members had already been elected on April 11. The Supervisory Board members are appointed for the period until the end of the Annual General Meeting 2024, which is to resolve on the approval of actions for fiscal 2023.
The new Supervisory Board of Merck KGaA consists of the following members: Dr. Wolfgang Büchele (Chairman), Michael Fletterich (Vice Chairman), Dr. Gabriele Eismann, Edeltraud Glänzer, Jürgen Glaser, Sascha Held, Michael Kleinemeier, Renate Koehler, Anne Lange, Peter Emanuel Merck, Dr. Dietmar Oeter, Dr. Christian Raabe, Helene von Roeder, Prof. Dr. Helga Rübsamen-Schaeff, Dr. Daniel Thelen, and Dr. Simon Thelen.
The term of office of the previous Supervisory Board members expired upon conclusion of the 2019 Annual General Meeting. In addition, the Annual General Meeting approved the actions of the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board of Merck KGaA for fiscal 2018 by a large majority and approved all of the resolutions on the agenda, including the proposed dividend of € 1.25 per share. Merck is thus maintaining the dividend at a stable level although earnings per share pre (EPS pre), which is decisive for the dividend to be paid, declined in 2018.
Around 1,000 shareholders took part in the Annual General Meeting. When the resolutions were voted on, around 86.5 million shares were represented, corresponding to 66.96 % of the approximately 129.2 million shares issued.