Platforms aren't just for acrobatic moves before splashing into the pool or '70s night at the disco. Drugmakers are using the same patented technology -- called a platform -- to develop several drugs. If the technology works, there's money to be made -- over and over again.
Longer-lasting -- times 3
Just like those guys who won't spit out their Stride gum, drugmakers love extended-release formulas of their drugs. Long-lasting versions usually have higher sales because patients prefer to take drugs less frequently. More importantly, the extended-release version can prolong the life cycle of the drug because patents on the extended-release technology often go beyond the patents on the active drug component.
Here are three to sink your teeth into:
Last up is Flamel Technologies
A drug discovery machine
Antibody drugs like Abbott Labs' Humira and Genentech's Herceptin bind to proteins and inhibit their function. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
The key to Regeneron's potential is the speed at which it can discover and test new antibodies using its VelocImmune technology. The company recently signed a drug discovery deal with sanofi-aventis with a goal of bringing four to five drugs per year into the clinic. Clearly not all will be successes, but that speed and volume should increase the companies' chance of hitting the drug-development lottery.
Be careful before diving in
There are certain advantages to investing in platform drugmakers, but don't let the allure of developing multiple drugs quickly blind you to reality: Drug development is still difficult and costly. Even one success doesn't guarantee that the platform will produce an investing lifetime supply of drugs.
Two years ago, I highlighted a few platform drugmakers to keep an eye on, including Abraxis Bioscience. The company already had one drug approved, Abraxane, which uses the company's nab (nanoparticle-albumin bound) technology that coats chemotherapy drugs with albumin protein to encourage tumor cells to bring the toxic drug inside themselves.
The nab technology clearly works for Abraxane, which has captured about a third of the metastatic breast cancer market from other taxanes on the market -- Bristol-Myers Squibb's
Platforms may raise up drugmakers' stock prices, but it gives them further to fall should the technology not work out.
Have a favorite platform drugmaker? Let us know in the comments section, below.