The pharmaceutical industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the evolution of new treatment paradigms and the gravity of unmet need, as well as the growing importance of technologies such as pharmacogenomics, digital therapeutics, and artificial intelligence. In the last three years alone, there have been over 633,000 patents filed and granted in the pharmaceutical industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Pharmaceuticals: CRISPR nucleases.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

110 innovations will shape the pharmaceutical industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the pharmaceutical industry using innovation intensity models built on over 756,000 patents, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, cell therapy for ocular disorders, coronavirus vaccine components, and DNA polymerase compositions are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Adeno-associated virus vectors, alcohol dehydrogenase compositions, and antibody serum stabilisers are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are anti-influenza antibody compositions and anti-interleukin-1, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the pharmaceutical industry

CRISPR nuclease is a key innovation area in pharmaceutical development

CRISPR, which refers to clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, are bacteriophage-derived DNA sequences that had previously infected the prokaryote and are found in the genomes of bacteria and archaea. Cas, also called CRISPR associated proteins, are a family of nucleases such as Cas9, Cas12a, Cas12b, and CasX that process these sequences. The eukaryotic genome can be cut at any desired position by introducing plasmids containing Cas genes and specifically constructed CRISPRs into eukaryotic cells. CRISPR nucleases serve as an important genome editing tool.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 190+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established pharmaceutical companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of CRISPR nucleases.

Key players in CRISPR nucleases – a disruptive innovation in the pharmaceutical industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to CRISPR nucleases

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Editas Medicine 376 Unlock company profile
CRISPR Therapeutics 352 Unlock company profile
Intellia Therapeutics 326 Unlock company profile
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals 304 Unlock company profile
E. Merck 264 Unlock company profile
Caribou Biosciences 264 Unlock company profile
Inscripta 198 Unlock company profile
ToolGen 184 Unlock company profile
Massachusetts General Hospital 175 Unlock company profile
Corteva 159 Unlock company profile
Bayer 123 Unlock company profile
Beam Therapeutics 116 Unlock company profile
Sangamo Therapeutics 105 Unlock company profile
Vertex Pharmaceuticals 103 Unlock company profile
Bristol-Myers Squibb 76 Unlock company profile
Danaher 75 Unlock company profile
General Hospital 74 Unlock company profile
Intima Bioscience 70 Unlock company profile
Snipr Technologies 65 Unlock company profile
Tropic Biosciences UK 65 Unlock company profile
Modalis Therapeutics 61 Unlock company profile
Arbor Biotechnologies 59 Unlock company profile
Arc Bio 55 Unlock company profile
Ginkgo Bioworks Holdings 54 Unlock company profile
Agilent Technologies 49 Unlock company profile
Seattle Children's Hospital 48 Unlock company profile
KSQ Therapeutics 46 Unlock company profile
Cellectis 46 Unlock company profile
Excision BioTherapeutics 45 Unlock company profile
Jackson ImmunoResearch Laboratories 43 Unlock company profile
G+FLAS Life Sciences 41 Unlock company profile
Royal DSM 41 Unlock company profile
SNIPR Biome 36 Unlock company profile
Children's Medical Center 36 Unlock company profile
Flagship Pioneering 36 Unlock company profile
Ligandal 35 Unlock company profile
Fate Therapeutics 35 Unlock company profile
Biocytogen Pharmaceuticals (Beijing) 35 Unlock company profile
EdiGene 33 Unlock company profile
IONTAS 33 Unlock company profile
China National Chemical 32 Unlock company profile
Factor Bioscience 32 Unlock company profile
ElevateBio 31 Unlock company profile
Thermo Fisher Scientific 31 Unlock company profile
Poseida Therapeutics 30 Unlock company profile
Keygene 30 Unlock company profile
Biocad 29 Unlock company profile
Synthego 29 Unlock company profile
AnGes 28 Unlock company profile
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia 27 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Editas Medicine is one of the most important players concerning innovation surrounding CRISPR nucleases. The company is largely involved in genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9 and CRISPR/Cas12a systems. Developing both in vivo and ex vivo gene editing medicines, Editas Medicine is primarily involved in the haematology and oncology therapy areas.

In terms of application diversity, Factor Bioscience is the top company followed by Ligandal and IONTAS. By means of geographic reach, Massachusetts General Hospital holds the top position. Biocad and Sangamo Therapeutics are in the second and third positions, respectively.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the pharmaceutical industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Pharmaceutical.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.