10 game-changing drug companies that are about to revolutionise how we treat illness

Medicine is gearing up for some big changes.

From innovations in precision medicine that aim to make treatments customisable to patients to cures for some of the world’s deadliest diseases, our treatments are shaping up to look very different in the next decade.

Here are the top 10 drug companies to watch.

Aprecia Pharmaceuticals just got approval for the first 3D-printed drug.

Aprecia Pharmaceuticals

Earlier this month, the FDA approved the first 3D-printed drug, an epilepsy medication that's used to treat seizures in children and adults. The pill, which goes by the brand-name Spritam, is made by drugmaker Aprecia Pharmaceuticals.

By 3D printing the powdered form of the drug, it's manufactured into a tablet without being compressed, the FDA notes. This allows it to dissolve faster in the body, delivering the medicine quickly and easily -- which is especially important for patients who have trouble swallowing.

Researchers think 3D-printed technology could also be used to make other, more personalised drugs, as well. The possibility of printing your own drugs is still pretty far off, but Aprecia's 3D-printed drug is a huge step forward.

Axovant is betting it all on an Alzheimer's drug it bought for $5 million.

Axovant CEO Vivek Ramaswamy

Axovant's a newbie: While it's only been around for a year, the company, led by 29-year-old former Wall Streeter Vivek Ramaswamy, has put all its eggs in the basket of an Alzheimer's disease drug in that's only one critical clinical trial away from getting approval. Since buying the drug from GSK for $US5 million, the company is now valued at $US3 billion.

There are very few drugs available to treat Alzheimer's disease; the average Alzheimer's drug has a 99% chance of failing. Researchers still haven't nailed down the exact cause of the disease, and very few trials of Alzheimer's drugs are taking place at the moment.

23andMe is leading the charge toward more specific medication.

Kimberly White/Getty
23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki

23andMe, a biotech company that makes $US99 consumer genetic tests, launched its drug development branch back in March. The company hit 1 million users this summer, giving the company a huge database to study. And it's already formed partnerships with companies like Pfizer and Genetech, which will use 23andMe's database to investigate new drugs of their own. The company also the leadership help of Richard Scheller, who came over from Genentech to lead 23andMe's research and development team.

With its sizeable database, 23andMe could have a good shot of finding the specific genetic markers that make a person more likely to respond to certain treatments.

Inovio wants to make a vaccine for cancer.


Earlier this summer, Pennsylvania immunotherapy company Inovio inked an up-to-$US700-million deal with MedImmune, Astra Zeneca's biologics research and development arm.

Inovio plans to use the partnership to research DNA-based 'vaccines' that would prevent disease by giving healthy cells the ability to recognise and attack diseased cells, priming themselves against a future invasion.

Currently, there's only one such vaccine available. The partnership will explore a vaccine in development for cervical cancer.

Juno Therapeutics wants to power up the immune system to fight cancer itself.

Juno Therapeutics
Juno CEO Hans Bishop

Using immunotherapy -- a technique that involves triggering the immune system so that it responds to a certain disease -- Juno is trying to get the body to attack the cancer cells that make tumours. Immunotherapy is used on all kinds of diseases in addition to cancer, including autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid arthritis and viruses like Hepatitis C.

This summer, Juno agreed to a $US1 billion collaboration with Celgene over the next 10 years to explore the drugs they currently have in early trials to treat different kinds of leukemia and lymphoma.

Novobiotic is creating smarter antibiotics.


There's a new technology called the 'iChip' that scientists hope will help them analyse potential new antibiotics. It's been decades since a truly innovative new class of antibiotics has been developed. And the fear of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the rise. These so-called superbugs don't respond to even the strongest antibiotics, which can be deadly.

To combat this problem, Novobiotic Pharmaceuticals is trying to identify new antibiotics that are tough enough to face these superbugs. Novobiotic's co-founder Kim Lewis was one of the researchers that identified a new antibiotic called teixobactin using the iChip. So far, no bacteria has been resistant to the new antibiotic, which is still in preclinical development.

Calico wants to figure out how and why we age.

Calico CEO Arthur Levinson

Google -- soon-to-be Alphabet's -- life science arm Calico has been fairly vague about what it wants to accomplish. Their goal is to figure out how and why we age, which means they're facing one of the toughest problems facing medicine: diseases of ageing.

In the past year or so, Calico's inked a big deal with AbbVie, and another one this year with the genealogy-mapping company Ancestry. The Ancestry partnership will help them access more than a million sets of DNA to investigate diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).

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