Biopharmaceuticals – or biologics – are critical, life-enhancing treatments that have improved upon the standard of care for patients suffering a variety of illnesses. These include oncology, autoimmune diseases and more.
Biologics include therapeutic proteins produced from living systems such as mammalian and yeast cells, as well as vaccines, blood-derived products and more.
Biologics differ from traditional small molecule drugs in a variety of ways, including their large size, complex structure, and manufacturing process.
Biologic treatments (such as monoclonal antibodies) have a mass of 150,000 daltons, in comparison to 180 daltons for traditional small molecules, like Aspirin.
Biologics are produced through more variable, complex cellular processes, whereas small molecule drugs are created through very predictable chemical pathways.
Biologics are incredibly complex and cannot be defined to the same precision as small molecules due to the inherent variability of the cellular manufacturing process.
Biologics are typically much more expensive, and can be financially out of reach for many patients in need of treatment. In the U.S. the average cost of a biologic drug is over twenty times more than a small molecule drug, and this cost is continuing to rise. In 2017, biologic medicines made up roughly 25% of global pharmaceutical sales ($276 billion) and were seven of the top ten highest selling drugs.