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 needs, 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: Zinc-finger 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

Zinc-finger nucleases is a key innovation area in pharmaceutical

Zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) are tools used in genetic engineering to cleave a chosen genomic sequence. It is a chimeric endonuclease, which consists of a custom-designed ZF DNA-binding domain and the non-specific nuclease domain from the FokI restriction enzyme. ZFNs are also used to create a new generation of genetic disease models called isogenic human disease models. They are the smallest type of programmable nuclease.

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 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established pharmaceutical companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of zinc-finger nucleases.

Key players in zinc-finger 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 zinc-finger nucleases

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Sangamo Therapeutics 793 Unlock company profile
E. Merck 202 Unlock company profile
Massachusetts General Hospital 162 Unlock company profile
Cellectis 124 Unlock company profile
Corteva 111 Unlock company profile
Beam Therapeutics 80 Unlock company profile
General Hospital 70 Unlock company profile
bluebird bio 67 Unlock company profile
Factor Bioscience 62 Unlock company profile
Caribou Biosciences 51 Unlock company profile
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center 49 Unlock company profile
ToolGen 43 Unlock company profile
Jackson ImmunoResearch Laboratories 36 Unlock company profile
Precigen 35 Unlock company profile
Modalis Therapeutics 25 Unlock company profile
Intima Bioscience 25 Unlock company profile
TargetGene Biotechnologies 24 Unlock company profile
Children's Medical Center 22 Unlock company profile
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres 21 Unlock company profile
Poseida Therapeutics 19 Unlock company profile
New England Biolabs 19 Unlock company profile
Neutrolis 18 Unlock company profile
Bio-Techne 18 Unlock company profile
CRISPR Therapeutics 17 Unlock company profile
Fondazione Telethon 15 Unlock company profile
IRCCS Policlinico San Donato 14 Unlock company profile
Generation Bio 14 Unlock company profile
KSQ Therapeutics 14 Unlock company profile
BASF 14 Unlock company profile
ElevateBio 13 Unlock company profile
Intellia Therapeutics 13 Unlock company profile
Algentech 13 Unlock company profile
Precision Biosciences 13 Unlock company profile
Advanced Gene & Cell Technologies (AGCT) 13 Unlock company profile
G+FLAS Life Sciences 12 Unlock company profile
Editas Medicine 12 Unlock company profile
Mayo Clinic 12 Unlock company profile
Keygene 11 Unlock company profile
Feldan Therapeutics 11 Unlock company profile
Genetether 10 Unlock company profile
C. H. Boehringer Sohn 10 Unlock company profile
Thermo Fisher Scientific 10 Unlock company profile
Spotlight Therapeutics 9 Unlock company profile
International Flavors & Fragrances 8 Unlock company profile
Bio-Rad Laboratories 8 Unlock company profile
National Cancer Center 8 Unlock company profile
TotalEnergies 8 Unlock company profile
Minapharm Pharmaceuticals 7 Unlock company profile
Locanabio 7 Unlock company profile
Aadigen 7 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Sangamo Therapeutics is the leading patent holder for zinc-finger nucleases. By using its proprietary zinc finger platform, the company is engaged in the development of various pipeline candidates. The company's lead asset involving this technology is isaralgagene civaparvovec (ST 920). The company’s R&D is also focused on drugs for central nervous system, infections and genetic disorders. Furthermore, it is exploring various options for multiple other therapy areas and has filed several patents based on zinc finger nucleases.

In terms of application diversity, Factor Bioscience is the top company, followed by Precigen and Neutrolis. By means of geographic reach, Generation Bio holds the top position. While Intellia Therapeutics and Jackson ImmunoResearch Laboratories are in 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.