Biotech's Biggest Spenders 2011

By John Carroll and Ryan McBride

If you add up the R&D budgets for the top 15 public biotechs in the world, you'll find a tab that runs right about $10 billion. That's not small change, by any means, but to put it in some perspective, it is interesting to note that Roche, which has the largest research budget for any biopharma on the planet, spent a bit more than that last year advancing new drugs and technology.

Having noted that, I believe that a combination of the peak projected sales for all the experimental drugs you'll find in the biotech pipeline below would rival all that Roche is working on.

This year, we've decided to sharpen the focus for our report this year on the biggest biotech R&D spenders. As we did last year, most of the numbers were drawn from the latest EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard. But this year we've excluded some of the tool and tech companies that were on last year's Top 15 report so we can devote our attention to drug discovery and development.

M&A activity is transforming the top 15 biotech companies on the list. These are 2010 numbers, so Genzyme is still with us--for the last time. Next year, look for it under the Sanofi banner. I dropped OSI Pharma, which was taken over by Astellas in a $4 billion deal last year. Abraxis BioScience is also gone, bought up by fast-growing Celgene, which jumps to third place in this new lineup. Genmab dropped off the list as it cut R&D costs down to $103 million.

I made an executive decision to play with the list a little as well. While the EU included Switzerland's Actelion as a pharma company, I see it as more of a biotech, rushing to see if a Phase III study of a lead program can give it a replacement for the steadily fading blockbuster that has funded the company's R&D operations. Failure may not be an option, as they say at NASA, but it is a distinct possibility, and a high-stakes development program like that can't be ignored. Also, Exelixis was inexplicably listed under pharma. That's a FierceBiotech company to watch, if ever there was one.

With all the M&A activity that has dominated the biopharma industry over the past year, it will be interesting to see who will be added when we come back in 2012.

See the report >>