Pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) – statistics & facts

There were around 5,100 pharmaceutical companies with active research and development (R&D) pipelines in 2021. The discovery of new medicines and the improvement of existing ones is vital for the continued growth of the industry, and some 18,600 drugs were in the global R&D pipeline in 2021. The R&D response to the COVID-19 pandemic has made headlines worldwide, and the relentless work of pharma companies and research groups continues to support the development of effective vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. However, the process of bringing new drugs to market is lengthy, complex, and costly.

The rise of R&D investment

The quest for breakthroughs is becoming more and more expensive: the combined R&D expenditure of the U.S. pharma industry totaled 91 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. Some financial experts feel this level of investment is wasteful and highlight the fact that the industry spends more than one fifth of its revenues on R&D projects. It is clear that spending does not automatically lead to profits, and the average return on R&D investment is low. In the biopharmaceutical industry, companies with a large market capitalization have seen their rate of return decline steadily over the past decade.

Why do companies invest in R&D?

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis had the largest R&D pipeline in 2021, with around 230 drugs in its development portfolio. Many companies rely on discovering previously unknown drugs to fill their R&D pipeline, but adding value to existing products is also important. During the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, pharma companies stood to gain by becoming the first to market a safe product, and several have increased their market capitalization as a result of being involved in the research.

The characteristics of the R&D pipeline

The R&D pipeline is fraught with difficulties. In the United States, the probability of a new drug successfully progressing from phase II to phase III is less than 30 percent, for example. Pharma companies continue to unlock innovations in the fight against various cancers, paving the way for more anticancer drugs in the R&D pipeline – the immunological cancer treatments category was the top therapeutic area worldwide in 2021. The rise of biotech drugs is expected to continue over the coming years, but drugs that are primarily made from synthetic chemical sources still account for roughly half of those in the R&D pipeline.

Key figures

The most important key figures provide you with a compact summary of the topic of "Pharmaceutical research and development (R&D)" and take you straight to the corresponding statistics.

Pharma R&D expenditure

Pharma R&D pipeline

R&D costs of pharma companies

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 31 most important statistics relating to "Pharmaceutical research and development (R&D)".

Pharmaceutical research and development

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Pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) – statistics & facts

There were around 5,100 pharmaceutical companies with active research and development (R&D) pipelines in 2021. The discovery of new medicines and the improvement of existing ones is vital for the continued growth of the industry, and some 18,600 drugs were in the global R&D pipeline in 2021. The R&D response to the COVID-19 pandemic has made headlines worldwide, and the relentless work of pharma companies and research groups continues to support the development of effective vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. However, the process of bringing new drugs to market is lengthy, complex, and costly.

The rise of R&D investment

The quest for breakthroughs is becoming more and more expensive: the combined R&D expenditure of the U.S. pharma industry totaled 91 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. Some financial experts feel this level of investment is wasteful and highlight the fact that the industry spends more than one fifth of its revenues on R&D projects. It is clear that spending does not automatically lead to profits, and the average return on R&D investment is low. In the biopharmaceutical industry, companies with a large market capitalization have seen their rate of return decline steadily over the past decade.

Why do companies invest in R&D?

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis had the largest R&D pipeline in 2021, with around 230 drugs in its development portfolio. Many companies rely on discovering previously unknown drugs to fill their R&D pipeline, but adding value to existing products is also important. During the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, pharma companies stood to gain by becoming the first to market a safe product, and several have increased their market capitalization as a result of being involved in the research.

The characteristics of the R&D pipeline

The R&D pipeline is fraught with difficulties. In the United States, the probability of a new drug successfully progressing from phase II to phase III is less than 30 percent, for example. Pharma companies continue to unlock innovations in the fight against various cancers, paving the way for more anticancer drugs in the R&D pipeline – the immunological cancer treatments category was the top therapeutic area worldwide in 2021. The rise of biotech drugs is expected to continue over the coming years, but drugs that are primarily made from synthetic chemical sources still account for roughly half of those in the R&D pipeline.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 31 most important statistics relating to "Pharmaceutical research and development (R&D)".

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