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Five key market observations from 2021…

In 2021, I covered Large Molecule CDMO, making appointments from mid to senior level across almost every business department. I spoke with thousands of people over the telephone, met many more in the flesh and built a network of key contacts.

From these countless conversations, I was able to gain a real insight into the marketplace, engage with industry leading organizations and most importantly, learn more about the world of biotechnology from the brilliant people in my market. Below are five key market observations I took from 2021.

*Disclaimer: I possess no scientific degree and am going off on my own research, as well as speaking with industry leaders.*

Work from home - Works:

A lot of my findings have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and these will really shape the face of work across the globe for years to come. One such observation, is that working remotely as opposed to being permanently site based, pays dividends for both employer and employee and is a great option to have. Prior to the approval of COVID vaccines, the rules were for everybody to socially distance and to work remotely. That’s not to say that everybody is blessed with this option, though, as key production staff will require a site presence to conduct their duties. That said, the vast majority I have spoken with who did transition into a more remote role (i.e., Project Management, Business Management & Commercial focused) say that it has not impacted them in a negative way and that the added flexibility works well, despite initial uncertainty. 

CDMO’s are more attractive now than ever before:

What do I mean by this? Well, of course with increased demand for bio-therapeutics comes increased opportunity to start a new CDMO business. Although from the people I have spoken with, a CDMO has not always been the most attractive type of organisation for somebody with a Scientific degree to move to. Often, people dream of working for an innovator company (Big Pharma or a Biotech), with its own products that it discovers and develops. In a more recent time, however, CDMO’s have become significantly more appealing. Many factors such as the opportunity to work on many different assets, take on a contract at an earlier stage in the drug development timeline or even more attractive compensation as an employee, are influencing the popularity of working for a Contract Manufacturer at all different levels.

mRNA is the future of vaccine manufacturing:

mRNA technology has revolutionised vaccine production and has laid the blueprint for the future when combating infectious diseases. Rather than rely on injecting a disabled form of a particular virus (e.g., AstraZeneca’s adenovirus vaccine vector) into the patient, mRNA teaches the body an immune response which allows it to detect a spike protein and fight against future pathogens. Given how this works, mRNA can be used to input a “code” for a particular protein which will then stimulate an immune response. By leveraging this, mRNA can be tailored to future diseases, which will take far less time than the traditional method of producing a vaccine. From a market perspective, CDMO’s who offer mRNA services make themselves a highly attractive employer for professionals within the industry who want to work in the latest field.

The growth of the Biosimilars market:

In 2020, the valuation of the global Biosimilars market was $28bn with its 2026 forecast estimated at $103bn, more than 300% growth with a CAGR of 24% in those six years. Biosimilars allow for companies to produce a biological medicine which closely resembles another product. The main advantage of this is of course reduced time and cost to get the product onto the market as companies spend less on research and development. The advantage for the patient is that therapeutics become more affordable and those living in impoverished parts of the world will gain broader access to complex medicines. All of these have meant that the market is extraordinarily competitive, and still niche. Everybody seems to know everybody in this area. Biosimilars focused organisations are positioned for a very exciting period ahead… it will be interesting to see who distinguishes themselves as #1.

The US is still the place to be, for now:

The global Large Molecule CDMO market is growing at a swift pace globally, with the US currently accounting for the current market share as well as forecasted growth. As of 2019, according to IQVIA, the US made up 48% of global pharmaceutical sales, due to the enormous economical firepower. With large resources and high demand for bio-therapeutics, this is likely to continue on trend. We have also seen a huge number of new players since the start of the pandemic, with the East Coast still dominating geographically; in particular Boston, Maryland & North Carolina. From a salary standpoint, not many countries are able to compete with the US, which makes it an even more attractive market to be in. Not to say that there is no pressure on the US though, with the Asian market in particular turning up the heat and showing some hugely encouraging signs as well as continued European growth.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this article. I would be interested to hear any thoughts or feedback (feel free to drop me a private message) on whether these correlate with your own findings or any additional observations you have made! Finally, for everybody who has made it this far, I’d like to wish you a happy and healthy 2022 – and to all of you who work in the industry, thank you for everything that you do. You are the difference in the world!


Mantell Associates is a specialist Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Head-Hunting organisation. To find out how we can assist with your business requirements, contact Ollie Masson on +44 (0)20 3778 0990 or oliver.masson@mantellassociates.com.