There has been a major leap in the number of deals big pharma has made in the last year as drugmakers look to boost their pipelines and expand into other business areas, such as generics.

The industry has had an active 2010, with a 20% increase in transactions concluded compared to last year according to figures released by MedTRACK, the biomedical database from Life Science Analytics. The latter's president, Sarah Terry, noted that the huge surge in deals concluded this year has been driven by "continued back-filling of pipelines", expansion into emerging markets and further diversification into generics and biologics.

Unsurprisingly, Pfizer tops the list, with 51 deals as of October 2010, followed by Sanofi-Aventis (50), Novartis (49), Roche (46) and GlaxoSmithKline (44). In sixth place is Bayer with 31 deals, then comes Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (30), AstraZeneca (25) and Abbott Laboratories (20). In joint tenth, with 18 agreements, are Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co.

Ms Terry says that the most noteworthy case is Sanofi, which rose to second place from 14th last year, "and is just one deal away from being at the top.” In terms of therapeutic area, oncology accounted for 24% of the deals, followed by infectious diseases (8%); 14% were attributable to central nervous system therapies.