The global Lupus R&D landscape is expected to witness partnerships between big pharma and small biotech in the future, according to a report by GlobalData.

Titled ‘PharmaPoint: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Lupus Nephritis – Global Drug Forecast and Market Analysis to 2025’, the report describes the trend as part of pharmaceutical companies’ product development strategies.

Forecast to reach $3.2bn by 2025, the lupus market is dominated by inexpensive generic drugs. Drug development mostly focuses on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and lupus nephritis (LN), which is associated with high risk of late-stage failures. The SLE and LN spaces offer high commercial potential to pharmaceutical companies despite the risk involved.

"The huge unmet needs in the SLE and LN spaces provide plenty of opportunities for existing companies and new entrants."

Pharmaceutical companies have, therefore, started adopting a range of strategies to develop new drugs due to the challenges and hurdles involved. They are focusing more on a narrow patient population in the SLE market such as treatment-naïve SLE patients, who are mostly likely to benefit from a possible clinical outcome.

The high risk involved in drug development is putting the burden mostly on small biotechnology companies such as Anthera, Aurinia, and ImmuPharma. In some cases, the development is being carried out through strategic partnerships between big pharma companies and small biotechnology companies.

Anifrolumab, for example, was developed by AstraZeneca and licensed to Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), and Orencia was developed jointly by BMS and Ono. Anifrolumab is projected to become the market leader by 2025 with annual sales of $144.9m, the report adds.

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Drug development in the LN space previously focused on seeking label extensions for drugs approved for SLE. New development strategies adopted by pharmaceutical companies are now focusing on developing products specifically for LN or both SLE and LN. The huge unmet needs in the SLE and LN spaces provide plenty of opportunities for existing companies and new entrants.