Sector deep dive: Medical devices/pharma

Europe remains a leader when it comes to medical devices/pharma, underpinned by giant drug makers from Switzerland and Germany, and leading medical devices operator Koninklijke Philips in the Netherlands.

To dig a bit deeper into precisely where companies are filing for patents, we examined some specific areas of innovation. The top trends include immunotherapy or immune-oncology, digital healthcare fuelled by the transformation of the space and the use of AI in drug development and beyond, viral sciences and surgical robots and rehabilitation.

One can infer from the data that these areas are predominantly the focus of US and EU entities, with only a few Asian firms active in the space. The industry has seen some consolidation over the years but more recently the dynamic landscape suggests that some players are rethinking their product development strategies. In particular, companies are fostering strategic collaborations with a view to better serving the market and maximising their return on investment.

The biopharma space has also seen a surge in innovation focused on the covid-19 pandemic. While it is too early to draw any firm conclusions, it would be reasonable to believe that this domain may see an increase in granted patents in the years to come.

Table 1. Medical devices/pharma players from top 100

Company nameEU grantsCountry of origin
Johnson & Johnson16,645United States
Roche Holdings12,216Switzerland
Koninklijke Philips11,560Netherlands
Pfizer7,406United States
Glaxosmithkline6,668United Kingdom
E Merck6,522Germany
CH Boehringer Sohn5,743Germany
Merck5,223United States
Bristol-Myers Squibb4,925United States
Abbvie4,703United States
BD Company4,634United States
Astrazeneca4,615United Kingdom
UShealth Group4,613United States
Abbott Laboratories4,029United States
Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited3,846Japan
Boston Scientific3,688United States

Table 2. Medical devices/pharma technology trends

Top trendsTop playersActive grantsTop players 2019-2020Active grants 2019-2020Key areas

Immunotherapy or immuno-oncology

Roche Holdings2,868Roche Holdings562

Cancer, immunotherapy, immuno-oncology, bispecific antibody, programmed death-ligand 1, PD-L1, liver cancer, CRISPR, CRISPR-CAS, CAR-T, CAR-T therapy, viral vectors

Novartis2,010UnitedHealth Group450
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company1,879Bristol-Myers Squibb Company413
UnitedHealth Group1,643Johnson & Johnson273

Digital healthcare

Medtronic1,588Koninklijke Philips273

Digital healthcare, AI and machine learning for drug discovery and development, clinical/medical diagnostics (image analysis, continuous monitoring, remote patient monitoring, wearables), online health, telehealth or telemedicine, health data management (electronic health and medical record)

Boston Scientific1,053Medtronic223
Johnson & Johnson987Boston Scientific204
Koninklijke Philips804Johnson & Johnson196
BD Company734BD Company190
Abbott Laboratories590Roche Holdings130

Viral sciences

Gilead Sciences550Regeneron Pharmaceutical53

Viral sciences, viral vector therapy, viral vaccination, viral vaccines, viral therapy, RNA targets, CRISPR/CAS-9, CRISPR-CAS9, antiviral vaccines, antiviral therapy

GlaxoSmithKline414UnitedHealth Group38
Merck408E Merck30
Johnson & Johnson351Caribou Biosciences22

Surgical instruments and robotic surgery

Intuitive Surgical130Intuitive Surgical44

Tissue and bone cutting laser systems, C-arm surgical robots, remote surgical robots, assisted recovery and rehabilitation

Johnson & Johnson92Johnson & Johnson41
Medtronic62CMR Surgical27
CMR Surgical30Medtronic19

Unlock unlimited access to all IAM content