Big Pharma makes its big leap into biotech

2007 may well go down as the year that Big Pharma went beyond merely embracing biotechnology and decided that now was the time to marry up with the new technology. With Big Pharma's accountants totting up the last big rewards from a slew of blockbusters, biotech was seen at the next big thing in therapeutics, and companies were willing to spend big to get in the act.

For AstraZeneca, there was the MedImmune buyout and its integration with Cambridge Antibody Technologies in the UK into a big new biotechnology division. Pfizer is setting up a biotech center in California, where it will open up a spigot of cash for new discovery work, incubating start-ups and getting cozy with biotech companies at work in the region. Sanofi-Aventis has made it clear that there's one more sizable biotech buyout in the not too distant future. Currently about 10 percent of the drugs Sanofi-Aventis makes are biologics, and it intends to boost that close to 30 percent in five years. And all those citations are just a few examples of the trend.

The convergence of Big Pharma and biotechnology shows no signs of slowing down. As drugs become more focused on narrower populations, most of the big plays will come in breakthrough biotech therapies. That message has come through loud and clear.

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