What drove the top bio/pharma companies’ growth in 2021? 

The top 20 global innovative bio/pharma companies* reported a 24.9% growth in aggregate market capitalisation (MCAP)—from $2.8 trillion on 31 December 2020 to $3.4 trillion as of 31 December 2021, according to GlobalData.  

The data and analytics company notes that a positive year-on-year MCAP growth was reported for 14 of the top players, with five companies—BioNTech (218.5%), Moderna (149.1%), Novo Nordisk (71.8%), Eli Lilly (63.6%) and Pfizer (61.9%)—demonstrating more than 50% growth in their MCAP in 2021. What drove this growth can be broken down as follows.  


BioNTech’s MCAP for the year grew to $62.5 billion due to the success of its Covid-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, which the company markets with Pfizer. Shwea commented: “While it is not the highest ranked in GlobalData’s chart by MCAP, BioNTech’s jump up to eighteenth position shows the success of this company in 2021. Comirnaty is currently the leading Covid-19 vaccine, with analyst consensus global forecast sales of $55.5 billion for 2021, according to GlobalData’s Drugs Database Pharma Intelligence Center.” 


Moderna’s share price grew from $104.5 on 31 December 2020 to $253.9 on 31 December 2021, largely due to its Covid-19 mRNA-1273 vaccine sales. This was supported by a pipeline of late-stage programmes, including its mRNA-2416 and personalised mRNA-4157 vaccine, both in Phase II for oncology indications. Shwea said: “Moderna’s significant market cap growth was owed to the marketing of its Covid-19 vaccine. According to GlobalData’s Drugs Database Pharma Intelligence Center, analyst consensus global forecast sales of $14.2 billion for 2021, along with Comirnaty, have taken market share away from the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.” 

Novo Nordisk 

Novo Nordisk reported a significant increase in its MCAP due to sales in its diabetes and obesity drugs, including Ozempic (semaglutide). Shwea said: “A driving factor for the increased MCAP revolves around LAI-287, Novo Nordisk’s once-weekly basal insulin drug currently in Phase III for Type 1 and 2 diabetes, likely to be the first insulin therapy to achieve this. The company’s Phase III semaglutide therapy, in development for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and patients with heart failure and obesity, has seen success in proving to have uses across multiple indications in the cardiovascular and metabolic disorder space. Continued strong sales are expected for semaglutide, with the market keenly anticipating its approval for the aforementioned diseases.” 

Eli Lilly 

Eli Lilly indicated a strong stock market performance in 2021, with its share price growing from $168.8 on 31 December 2020 to $276.2 on 31 December 2021. Shwea said: “Ely Lilly’s growth in 2021 was driven by the sales of its Covid-19 monoclonal antibody-based combination therapy, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, as well as its investigational antibody therapy, donanemab, which received a breakthrough therapy designation for Alzheimer’s disease from the Food and Drug Administration.” 


Pfizer’s share price similarly soared in 2021 driven by its Covid-19 franchise. Shwea said: “Pfizer received a pre-order of 10 million courses from the US government of its Phase III small molecule Covid-19 drug, Paxlovid. According to GlobalData’s report, ‘Q4 2021 Global Analyst Consensus Sales Forecast’, Pfizer is expected to take the lion share of market cap growth, while other COVID-19 drugs, such as Johnson & Johnson’s, have seen concerns of a possible link to venous thromboembolism.” 

Vertex Pharmaceuticals 

Among the six Bio/Pharma companies in the list that saw a decline in market cap in 2021, Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ 9.2% year-on-year decrease was related to the clinical failure of two Phase II trials for VX-814, a treatment targeting alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a lung and liver disease. Shwea commented: “Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ saw its stock price plummeting after the termination of its VX-814 clinical trials in 2021. However, this downward trajectory is not expected to continue, with the company’s research and development (R&D) focus on the cystic fibrosis therapeutic space and with the world’s first triple-combination regimen, Trifakta/Kaftrio, receiving approval in January 2022 of its label extension by the European Commission to treat patients aged 6 through 11 years with cystic fibrosis.” 

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals  

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals climbed three places to seventeenth in the group. Shwea said: “Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ steady ascent can be attributed to the company’s COVID-19 antibody combination therapy, REGEN-COV, which was approved for market in Q3 2021. However, due to concerns of the diminished potency of REGEN-COV against the Omicron variant, its future success remains to be seen.” 

*By MCAP, year ended 31 December 2021 

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