The logic of biologics

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar


Biologics have long been the great hope in the fight against non-communicable diseases. Cancer, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and mental health account for 63% of all deaths world-wide. According to a 2011 World Economic Forum report, these diseases will cost some $47 trillion in lost global output over the next two decades. Unsurprisingly, biologics are grabbing an increasing share of the blockbuster drugs market; in 2014 they represented six of the world’s 10 best-selling pharmaceuticals.

Unlike conventional chemical-based drugs, biologics are organic and consist of larger molecules, with thousands of times more atoms. Their greater complexity, however, means that “the regulatory pathway is more cumbersome,” notes Ranjith Gopinathan, program manager, life sciences in the European health-care practice of Frost & Sullivan, a global market research and consulting firm. Of the 41 new drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014, only 11 were biologics.

Never the less, biologic drugs that have been approved have made a huge and rapid impact. Take Sofosbuvir (sold by Gilead as Solvaldi), an anti-viral medication that helps cure hepatitis C. With some 150 million sufferers world-wide, the drug became a global best seller within its first year on the market.

One of the hottest areas in biologics is the development of monoclonal antibodies. These mimic the body’s natural antibodies and have proven to be particularly effective in cancer treatment. They can make cancer cells more visible to the immune system, block growth signals, prevent new blood vessel formation in tumors, and deliver radiation or chemotherapy to cancer cells.

Trastuzumab (sold by Roche as Herceptin), for example, is a monoclonal antibody that targets the HER2+ receptor in breast cancer, a genetic variation found in 15% of  breast cancer patients. When used with other chemotherapy drugs, Herceptin increases survival rates 37%. Roche has come up with other biologics—pertuzumab (sold as Perjeta) and trastuzumab emtasine (sold as Kadcyla)—that can further improve Herceptin’s results, says Barbara Gilmore, a senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

Close lookAnother monoclonal antibody, launched on the U.S. market in March 2015, is dinutuximab, (marketed by United Therapeutics as  Unituxin). Containing mouse and human components, it helps the immune system find and destroy cancer cells by targeting a substance found on the surface of neuroblastoma tumor cells. Neuroblastoma cancer starts in the nervous system and typically afflicts children under five.

Monoclonal antibodies are key to the success of targeted therapeutics, a process that attacks diseases without affecting healthy cells and tissues. Meanwhile, advances in companion diagnostics and genetic profiling would bolster personalized medicine.

“The growth will be in personalized medicine and targeted therapeutics,” says Mr. Gopinathan. “More efficient drug-development processes based on the disease pathophysiology and genetic risk factors would be game-changers in the industry.” He predicts: “Biologics will continue to outpace overall pharma growth.”

Another promising growth area lies in non-brand versions of biologics, known as “biosimilars.” These are analogous to the $261 billion generic drugs market that replicates conventional drugs whose patents have expired.

One such biosimilar, developed by Novartis, is Zarxio , a version of Amgen’s filgrastim (sold as Neupogen), which helps prevent infection during chemotherapy. Amgen is also developing six of its own biosimilar drugs.  “Here’s a biotech company that makes biotech drugs, and even though they have a robust pipeline, they’re also making biosimilars,” says Ms. Gilmore. “It’s very smart. There’s money to be made there.”

Frost & Sullivan forecases a 60% compound annual growth in the biosimilar market between 2012 and 2019. A RAND Corp. study estimates  that biosimilars could reduce spending on biologic drugs in the U.S. by $44 billion over the next decade, while Spain’s University of the Basque Country forecasts €20 billion savings in Europe through 2020.

iStock_000029461972_SmallHowever, getting biosimilars into the market remains a major challenge. Biologics’ complexity makes them hard to replicate because they use biological processes or living organisms to create the drugs’ molecules.

The European Union has approved only 19 biosimilar drugs since 2006, and the U.S. approved its first biosimilar, Zarxio, in March 2015. Herceptin lost its patent protection last year in Europe and will lose its U.S. patent in 2019, but no biosimilars have yet been approved in those jurisdictions, an indication of how difficult the process is.

Moreover, unlike generics, biosimilars are not much cheaper than their originals to produce. Mr. Gopinathan calculates that “the price reduction is, at most, 30%.” Health care’s great hope will still come at a price.


Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.


Photos courtesy of iStock

Test tube transport: the Hyperloop nears reality

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar, in association with WSJ custom studios


Source: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Source: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Imagine traveling in capsules sucked through a tube using low air pressure and magnetic acceleration to achieve speeds of up to 760 miles (1,223 km) per hour. That’s the idea of the California Hyperloop, which could eventually cut the travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to a mere 30 minutes, compared with today’s one-hour flight or six-hour car journey.

As soon as next year, a full-scale test track will begin construction in Quay Valley, a proposed sustainable community located between California’s two major metropolises.

The Hyperloop is a system that not only makes sense because it’s cheaper to construct, but it’s also sustainable so it’s cheaper to run,” says Dirk Ahlborn, chief executive officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc. “It changes the world.”

Tesla founder Elon Musk first laid out his Hyperloop vision in 2013 and invited others to take up the challenge. Turning the idea into a full-scale model in just three years may seem fast, but, as Mr. Ahlborn points out, it took a decade to get to the moon—“a way more difficult task,” he says. “The Hyperloop technology sounds like science fiction but, in the end, everything we’re doing already exists. The Quay Valley track is necessary to find out how to optimize the technology.”

The Hyperloop concept is similar to the pneumatic tubes used by banks to carry cash and documents, except that the passenger capsules would be sucked through the tube by controlled propulsion. A capsule (with large doors for speedy boarding) would enter a tightly sealed exterior shell. The tubes would probably be constructed from steel—although other materials, including fiberglass, are being considered—and covered with solar panels to supply the system’s energy. Low air pressure—of around 100 Pascals—would reduce air resistance inside the tube, while magnetic levitation and an air cushion would allow the capsule to hover above the tube’s surface. The straight track would further aid speed. As on a flight, passengers would sense how fast they are moving only when the capsule accelerates, slows or turns.


Hyperloop. Source: Forbes

Hyperloop. Source: Forbes

The Quay Valley track will allow engineers to work out optimum capsule size and boarding procedures. Each capsule is currently expected to seat 28 passengers and depart every 30 seconds during peak times, allowing a full-size Hyperloop to transport some 3,360 passengers an hour.

The Hyperloop would be elevated on pylons, making it possible to place the route above existing infrastructure such as highways, while also simplifying the process of obtaining right of way and minimizing the environmental impact.

More importantly, the pylons would be flexible enough to withstand earthquakes, in the way that pylons built in the 1970s to carry Alaska’s oil pipeline have proved resilient to such shocks, Mr. Ahlborn notes. As an enclosed system, the Hyperloop would also be impervious to harsh weather.

Perhaps more revolutionary than the technology is the way the Hyperloop team itself works. As well as partnering with companies and universities, more than 300 experts from 21 countries have been brought onto the team, working remotely online. Although they don’t get paid—most hold day jobs as engineers—they do get company stock options. “They’re driven by passion,” says Mr. Ahlborn.

The Hyperloop is groundbreaking in a commercial sense, too. It is expected to cost $16 billion to build, versus $68 billion for a comparable California high-speed rail line. Ticket prices for the Los Angeles-San Francisco stretch, at $20- $30, would be far cheaper than flying, and even that business model is open to disruption. “Do we need tickets?” asks Mr. Ahlborn. “Or are there other ways in which we can generate enough income.” Maybe the Hyperloop could “make more money having more people ride and we can say it’s free. Or maybe it’s free at certain times, and at peak times it costs a bit,” he adds.

The Hyperloop turns conventional infrastructure on its head, from its technology to its crowdsourcing. “Usually these things are done behind closed doors in a boardroom. We’re trying to be open. We’re using the community to do everything,” Mr. Ahlborn says. The Hyperloop “is a first for a lot of things.”

For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

The Case for Industrialization of the Construction Industry

By Akio

This post is an excerpt from the paper, “Industrialization of the Construction Industry,” by Dr. Perry Daneshgari and  Dr. Heather Moore of  MCA Inc.

Like many other industries the construction industry is under constant pressure to improve productivity, reduce cost, and minimize waste in the operation.

While the productivity in the manufacturing industry has improved by four hundred percent (400%) over the last century, the construction industry’s productivity has, in the best case, stayed flat or turned negative.

Tweet: Problem: Over the last 100 yrs productivity in the #AEC industry has, in best case, stayed flat. Solution: @3DSAECClick to tweet: “Problem: over the 100 yrs productivity in the #AEC
industry has, in the best case, stayed flat. Solution: industrialization”

One main reason for the improvement of the manufacturing and other industries’ productivity is the “Industrialization” of those industries. Industrialization of any industry will rely on the following five factors:

  1. Management of Labor
  2. Management of work
  3. Lean Operations
  4. Modeling and Simulation
  5. Feedback from the source

The driver for establishing and applying industrialization in manufacturing was the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Currently no known association is leading this mission in the construction industry.

A marked result of the advancement in productivity of the manufacturing industry is the relative price of an automobile.  Whilst the cost of an automobile has gone from 140% in 1910 of the average national per capita income in the United States down to 33% in 2012, the cost of an average dwelling has gone up from 333% to 619% of per capita income during the same period.

Tweet: Since 1910 automobile production cost decreased 75%. The cost of a dwelling has doubled. Time to industrialize @3DSAEC to tweet: “Since 1910 automobile production cost decreased
75%. Production cost of a dwelling has doubled. Time to industrialize”

This post is an excerpt from the white paper, “Industrialization of the Construction Industry,” by Dr. Perry Daneshgari and Dr. Heather Moore. Commissioned by Dassault Systemes and prepared by MCA Inc., this whitepaper focuses on industrialization of construction industry. It maps out the construction industry challenges, relates the history of industrialization in the manufacturing industry, and summarizes five critical aspects and approaches.

Download the whitepaper and start accelerating the “Industrialization of the Construction Industry” through lessons learned from manufacturing and other industries.

Tweet: The Case for Industrialization of the #Construction Industry @3DSAEC @Dassault3DS #AEC #BIM to tweet this article


Akio MoriwakiAkio Moriwaki
Dassault Systèmes’ head of global marketing for the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry, Mr. Moriwaki led the launch of the groundbreaking Lean Construction Solution Experience and is a member of buildingSMART

Related resources:

Lean Construction Industry Solution Experience

Download Lean Construction Solution Brief

White Paper: Industrialization of the Construction Industry

MCA® Website

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