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Barry Cohen
Barry Cohen
Articles (176) 

AstraZeneca Ranked Most Inventive, Roche Most Innovative

AbbVie was #2 in innovation for the second consecutive year and #7 in invention

AstraZeneca (AZN) was ranked the most the most inventive pharmaceutical company for the second year in a row by IDEA Pharma’s Invention and Innovation Index for 2020. Meanwhile, Roche (RHHBY) jumped seven places from its 2019 ranking to capture the top spot in the list of most innovative pharma firms.

IDEA is an international consulting firm that works with pharma companies to position their products in the early phase to maximize market success and consult on innovation. The firm bases its Innovation Index on the answer to the following question: "If two companies had the same molecule, who would be more successful with it?” It also considers their ability to bring products from phases 1 and 2 to market and commercialize them successfully, according to CEO Mike Rea. “We consider a range of clinical, regulatory, and commercial metrics to achieve this, ranging from the corporate level down to individual product decisions and outcomes,” he said.

IDEA’s Pharmaceutical Invention Index is in its second year. It takes a look at companies’ products in the pipeline, examining the breadth and novelty of drugs being tested. “The Invention Index give a more forward-looking view of which of the company’s treatments are likely to have the biggest impact on the market,” said Rea.

Taking a look at top performers in both indices, Roche really seems to stand out. The Swiss company’s improvements from the previous year can be attributed to multiple clinical trial wins, a pair of novel drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and many path-leading firsts by the cancer dynamo in immune-oncology, led by Tecentriq.

AbbVie Inc. (ABBV) was number two in the innovation index for the second consecutive year, also capturing the seventh spot in invention. The Chicago-based company got positive test results for several drugs it hopes will fill the void when Humira, the world’s top-selling medication, starts facing generic competition in 2023. Investors will be closely following the performance of the company’s Rinvoq, an approved drug used to treat adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

AstraZeneca also turned in an impressive performance. In addition to ranking first in invention, the company jumped six spots from its 2019 ranking to place sixth in innovation. It didn’t have any approvals in 2019, but several of its drugs in clinical trials showed encouraging results. Foremost among them was Anifrolumab, which showed a meaningful reduction in patients with moderate to severe systemic lupus erythematosus. There has been only one new treatment for the condition in the past six decades. In a phase 3 clinical trial, AstraZeneca’s Anifrolumab, in combination with other medications, was also shown to be effective in treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Pharmaceutical Invention Index - 2020






Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY)


Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY)


Novartis (NYSE:NVS)


Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD)


Regeneron Pharmaceuticals




Merck (NYSE:MRK)


Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX)





Source: IDEA Pharma


Pharmaceutical Innovation Index - 2020

Company Rank
AstraZeneca 1
Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) 2
Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) 3
Novartis (NYSE:NVS) 4
Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) 5
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals 6
AbbVie 7
Merck (NYSE:MRK) 8
Vertex Pharmaceuticals 9
Roche 10
Source: IDEA Pharma  

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (REGN) joined Roche in improving seven places in the innovation index, jumping from 17th last year to 10th in 2020. IDEA attributed the gain to the company’s sales growth, clinical approval of several drugs and a robust pipeline.

The biggest gainer in invention was Merck KGaA (XTER: MRK), as the German company that improved 12 spots to 21st. At the other end of the spectrum was Biogen Inc. (BIIB), which slipped 15 spots to 25th.

Disclosure: The author holds positions in Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences and Johnson & Johnson

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About the author:

Barry Cohen
Barry Cohen has nearly 40 years experience in communications and marketing, the majority in senior positions at large international health care companies, including Abbott Laboratories and Bayer Inc.

He has contributed to a number of financial websites, writing primarily about the stocks of health care companies.

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