A new analysis from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development has highlighted the  way the pharmaceutical industry "has dramatically shifted its R&D focus from its historical concentration on small molecule drugs to today's dominant focus on biotechnology products".

The study notes that biotech products, which accounted for only 7% of revenue generated by the 10 top-selling treatments worldwide in 2001, they made up 71% of the top 10 last year. The number of biologics in clinical trials grew 155% in 11 years, from 355 in 2001 to 907 in 2012, with big pharma involved in about 40% of all biotech products in development last year.

The Tufts CSDD analysis, which examined R&D, pipeline and sales data for three specific time points - 2002, 2007 and 2012 - states that financing of biotech research increased from $10.5 billion in 2001 to $103 billion last year. Worldwide biotech product sales grew 353% between 2001 and 2012, reaching $163 billion.

Tufts CSDD director Kenneth Kaitin said "the notion that pharmaceutical companies primarily develop small molecule drugs no longer holds", noting that the transformation has been driven as much by new technologies that have enabled development of drugs that "improve disease outcomes and command high prices, as much as by the declining patent lives of top-selling small molecule drugs".