Manufacturing of biosimilars

Biosimilars/Research | Posted 24/06/2011 post-comment0 Post your comment

Manufacturing of biosimilars is more challenging than the traditional small molecule generics. Some of the reasons are:

  • Investments (including operating costs) associated with manufacturing of biosimilars along with the risk of failure for biosimilars are significantly higher than that for small molecule generics. This results in a relatively smaller discount for biosimilars compared to small molecule generics.
  • Minor changes in manufacturing process can cause significant changes in efficacy or immunogenicity.
  • Biosimilars are larger and more complex molecules to manufacture.
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The dawn of the ‘biosimilar age’, however, despite these manufacturing challenges is driven by a reduction in production costs. This cost-reduction has been possible over the past decade due to the standardisation of the manufacturing process of proteins, particularly antibiotics, with increased capacity and improvements in conventional purification technologies paving the way [1].

According to a Bernstein Analysis, the resulting difference between manufacturing cost and price is estimated to be on average around 2.3%, with some products having up to 4.4% difference, see Table 1. Thus, resulting in a viable product from a profit viewpoint [2].

Table 1: Difference between cost of manufacture and price

GW 614E Figure 1

*Assuming 2g/L yield
Note: IP licensing is excluded from cost calculation; objective of analysis is to show the market from perspective of subsequent entrant.
Source: Bernstein Research

The technology to produce biosimilars is now commonplace, coupled with high operating profits and requiring limited upfront investment. This combination, being so lucrative, in turn attracts additional competition.

This competition is expected to come from ‘biobetters’ primarily developed by innovator companies and from ‘biosimilars’ developed primarily by generic companies.

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1. Kelley B. Industrialization of mAb production technology: The bioprocessing industry at a crossroads. mAbs. 2009;1(5):443-52.

2. Gal R. Biosimilar development is progressing, but bigger challenges are ahead. 9th EGA International Symposium on Biosimilar Medicines; 2011 Apr 14; London, UK.

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