Investment in R&D by member companies of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) totalled $49.5 billion last year, the industry group has reported.

The industry's investment levels have "remained strong" as it "adapts to meet the challenges of evolving science, a changing marketplace and a difficult economic environment," PhRMA comments.

Biopharmaceutical research companies are continuing to explore the possibilities associated with more targeted therapies and personalised medicines, and are building on the benefits associated with partnerships among experts throughout the research ecosystem, the industry group said yesterday, as it published its new 2012 Industry Profile and an informational chart pack entitled Biopharmaceuticals in Perspective. Both these resources contain updated information and are available for public use.

The group also points to the biopharmaceutical sector's standing as the most research-intensive US industry, noting that the National Science Board of the US National Science Foundation reported recently that the industry accounts for the single largest share of all US business R&D, representing nearly 20% of all domestic R&D funded by American businesses.

Moreover, in the US, R&D expenditures among PhRMA member-companies represented 21.1% of domestic sales last year, it adds.

"Despite facing market, scientific and regulatory challenges, the US biopharmaceutical sector - led by our member-companies - has remained a major contributor to American innovation," commented PhRMA president and chief executive John J Castellani.

PhRMA companies' investment represents a boost to America's economy, "with 78% of those dollars invested on our shores. But, more importantly, it shows a continued commitment to medical progress that will continue to bring new solutions to America's patients," he added.

Last year alone, 35 New Molecular Entities (NMEs) received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one of the highest totals in the last decade. The approvals included medicines which address significant unmet medical need, including two personalised medicines for cancer, 11 new treatments for patients with rare diseases, the first new medicine for lupus since 1955 and two new products that are the first in a new class to treat hepatitis C.

"These remarkable breakthroughs are a testament to our greater understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of disease. As our knowledge and research capabilities grow, PhRMA member companies are able to use those advances to develop more targeted and effective therapies - a new generation of treatments for the most costly and challenging diseases,” says PhRMA.

A study by the Tufts University Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD) has reported that 94% of surveyed companies are currently investing in the field of personalised medicine.

But behind these numbers is the unfolding story of how companies are adapting to a changing research paradigm, noted Mr Catellani. "Part of that story is our shift to a more agile sector, which increasingly involves collaborative, constructive partnerships with both public and private experts," he said.

The growing complexity of science requires access to broader expertise. These partnerships - which can involve experts from across the healthcare spectrum, including academia, government-funded research and other biopharmaceutical firms - help companies build upon a larger reservoir of knowledge.

Other steps that companies are taking include identifying efficiencies and reorganising research structures throughout the R&D process and improving productivity, and achieving other efficiencies through incorporation of new technologies, says PhRMA.

There are currently more than 3,200 medicines in clinical trials or undergoing FDA reviews in the US, compared to 2,400 in 2005, the industry group adds.