In this article we are going to list the 15 largest biotech companies in the world. Click to skip ahead and jump to the 5 largest biotech companies in the world.
Biotech seems to be a term where you might think that they are using biology to develop weapons or some other high tech product. But actually, it is simply the use of biology to develop technology which is then used to improve the health of both the people and the planet. Some of the aims and achievements of biotechnology companies include reducing the rates of infectious diseases, providing tailored or specific treatments to individuals to reduced any risks of health as well as side effects, making better tools which can detect diseases early on to minimize health risks, saving the lives of millions of children and providing better treatment and quality of life to those afflicted by serious diseases.
You might then be wondering what is the difference between a pure pharmaceutical company and a biotech company. Well, any company that uses either live organisms or their products, which can include enzymes or bacteria for the production of drugs is considered to be a biotech company. On the other hand, pure pharmaceutical companies only use chemicals for the production of drugs and medicine. Most companies however, are a hybrid of both, and use both live organisms and chemicals for the manufacture of various drugs. While it would be easier if we could obtain separate information regarding their biotechnology portfolio, that is generally not the case and hence, the overall size of the company has to be considered instead.
While biotech and biopharma companies have been important throughout their existence and the existence of this industry to improve the standard of living, and fight against the myriad diseases present in the world, 2020 is perhaps their greatest test yet. After all, when the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic hit, the pharma industry wasn't as regulated or developed as it is now. Most of the biggest biotech companies weren't even in existence then, and that may be one of the reasons why tens of millions of people across the world perished. Not to say that we're doing any better in the current pandemic, which has gripped the world with nearly 47 million cases and over 1.2 million deaths. While the situation seemed to be getting slightly better in previous months, the second wave has roared again and daily cases are at an all time high for many countries, while deaths are steadily increasing as well.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, pressure and lockdowns, biotech companies are racing against the clock to come up with a vaccine that can fight against the coronavirus and hopefully eventually end this pandemic and allow things to return to normal. However, finding a vaccine can take years easily while we can seldom afford such time for the discovery of a cure. This is why billions are being paid to various pharma companies such as GSK, Johnson and Johnson, Novavax and AstraZeneca, with the total payments exceeding $10 billion in the US alone. This is before any vaccine has even been developed, so you can imagine the windfall that the first company to develop a working vaccine can expect to benefit from. Only time will tell which company will manage that, and whether all the recent technological advancements will help rid the world of the worst pandemic in over a century.
Insider Monkey currently recommends long positions in two biotech stocks in its monthly newsletter. By the way, our monthly newsletter's stock picks returned a cumulative 113% since its inception in March 2017 through the end of October 2020. The S&P 500 ETFs returned 47% during the same period. Our stock picks delivered more than twice the return of the S&P 500 Index funds which are favored by most investors. You can find out one of our two biotech stock picks by creating a free account on our website and downloading the free sample issue of our monthly newsletter.
To determine the biggest biotech companies in the world, we considered two premier metrics, namely their market cap and their revenue. The market cap is literally the value of the company and an indicator of its size, as it shows the market value of any publicly traded company. The greater the market cap, the greater the value of the company. Revenue of course is another major indicator as it basically indicates the market share that the company has, which in turn also exemplifies the size of the company and its reach in the market. Hence, we used these two indicators assigning 60% weightage to market capitalization and 40% weightage to the revenue earned by each company. These companies are not only huge in size but are also quite profitable, which is why you will also see some names in the list of 10 most profitable companies in the world. Till then, let's take a look at some of the likeliest candidates for the production of a new vaccine, starting off with number 15:
15. Sanofi (NYSE:SNY)
Sanofi is a French pharmaceutical company and is headquartered in Paris. It was formed initially in 1973, before becoming Sanofi Aventis in 2004, with the merger of Aventis and Sanofi-Synthélabo. In 2011, the company changed its name to just Sanofi, and is also the world's largest vaccine manufacturer. This is why the US has agreed to pay Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline $2.1 billion for an initial 100 million doses of a vaccine they are jointly working on, while the UK has also secured a potential 60 million doses from these two companies if their campaign is successful.
14. Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE:LLY)
One of the oldest American pharmaceutical companies, Eli Lilly & Co. was actually founded 144 years ago, back in 1876. It became the first company in the world to successfully mass produce the vaccine for polio, as well as the development of insulin. It currently has a market cap of approximately $130 billion, while its profits for 2019 were $22.3 billion.
13. Bristol-Myers Squibb (NASDAQ:BMY)
Another ancient American pharmaceutical company is Bristol-Myers Squibb which was founded 133 years ago in 1887. The company is famous for its diverse portfolio which includes various therapies, some of which are HIV, diabetes, arthritis, psychiatric disorders and cancer. The company had a market capitalization of $105 billion, while its profits for the year 2019 amounted to $26.15 billion.
One of the more controversial aspects of the company is the fact that it is facing a $1 billion trial for a major roles in the 1940s where the US infected hundreds of people in Guatemala with syphilis as an experiment. While a previous such lawsuit was dismissed because of the ruling that the US government cannot be held responsible for actions committed outside the country, we'll see whether this trial suffers the same fate or will the US finally answer for some of the innumerable crimes it has committed as a superpower.
12. Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO)
Novo Nordisk is a Danish multinational company which has production facilities in eight countries. The company is more well known for providing diabetes medication, hormone replacement therapy and growth hormone therapy. It has its products in around 180 countries, and employs over 40,000 people across the world. While the company was initially founded in 1923, it actually became a giant in 1989 through the merger of two Danish companies.
11. AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN)
AstraZeneca is a combined British Swedish multinational and biopharmaceutical company with headquarters on both of the aforementioned countries as well. It is one of the most recent companies in this list, having only been founded in 1999 through the merger of Swedish company Astra AB and the British Zeneca Group. The company has kept on going through various acquisitions and currently has a market cap of $130.8 billion, the highest in its history and had revenues of $24.38 in 2019 as well.
The company is currently working on a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus and recently made the news after having to pause the trial when one of the volunteers suffered a serious adverse reaction. The trial has since resumed and further results are awaited.
10. Bayer (FWB:BAYN)
The German company may have a market cap of just $80 billion (the term 'just' is relative to the market sizes of the other companies in the list), but has also revenues of over $48 billion in 2019, thus becoming one of the biggest biotechnology in the world. It is one of the oldest companies in our list, having been founded 157 years ago, and is famous for its production of aspirin and introduced the first ever antibiotic which was widely used. While the company was split in pieces after World War II due to its involvement in Nazi atrocities, the company quickly recovered to become one of the biggest biopharma companies out there currently.
9. GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK)
GSK has a current market cap of $117.2 billion, while in 2013, it hit its highest ever market cap of $174.9 billion. The company has a long history when you consider the companies that merged to form GSK, but GSK itself is only 19 years old, having been formed in 2000 with the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham. The company's claim to fame is the development of the first ever malaria vaccine while it also provides some products included in the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, including amoxicillin. In 2019, it earned revenue of nearly $44 billion.
8. Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN)
Amgen's current market capitalization is an amazing $144.6 billion and is one of the largest independent biotechnology firms in the entire world. Established exactly 40 years ago, Amgen earned revenue of $23.4 billion in 2019 alone.
7. Abbvie (NYSE: ABBV)
Abbvie has a market capitalization of $130.9 billion, though it nearly reached $200 billion less than 3 years ago. This combined with revenue of $33.27 billion ensured that it is easily one of the biggest biotech companies in the world. It was founded quite recently in 2013 and is a spinoff of another company which will make the list later on, Abbott Laboratories.
6. Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT)
Just slightly ahead of its spin-off is Abbott Laboratories, which attained its highest ever market cap in 2019 at $153.5 billion. This American company was found in 1888 and some of its most famous products include Pedialyte, Ensure, Glucerna and Similac. It is considered to be among the best companies to work in.