Following a slump during early 2020, activity improved significantly to reach historic levels.
According to a report published by the CRO heavyweight in May, while the COVID-19 pandemic upended life globally and disrupted research and development (R&D), activity recovered notably during the latter part of 2020. The report highlighted that funding for early- and late-stage R&D and strategic transactions increased significantly during 2020, with the aggregate R&D spend for the top 15 companies reaching a record high as a result. In addition, at 66, first-time launches of novel active substances also reached an all-time high last year, with oncology and rare diseases standing out from the rest. The total number of trials started last year was 4,686, which marked a jump of more than 300 compared to 2019.
Roughly 1,821 of the trials started last year were in Phase I, about 1,880 in Phase II and 985 in Phase III. Overall, this represented a growth of 8% in clinical trial starts which is comparable to the levels seen over the preceding three years. Oncology trial starts outperformed the rest. In geographical terms, the U.S. maintained its historic lead and accounted for over 40% of early-stage R&D. However, Europe has seen its share decline from a third to 22% over the past five years. On the other hand, China has emerged as a notable player over the past decade. Compared to 2% ten years ago, its products now account for 12% of the early-stage pipeline.