Biogen: 'Our goal is to be that leader'
- Biogen reported second quarter revenues on Tuesday of $3.1 billion, up 15% if its hemophilia business is excluded from comparison to the same quarter last year.
- Revenues benefited from strong sales of the spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) drug Spinraza (nusinersen), which brought in $203 million in sales, beating expectations of just $70 million. Approximately $30 million in Spinraza sales were from inventory.
- Biogen's multiple sclerosis franchise, including Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), brought in a total of $2.34 billion during the period — up from $2.24 billion in the second quarter of 2016.
Just two quarters after taking over as CEO at Biogen, Michel Vounatsos says he intends to make the company the "fastest-growing large-cap biotech." The new exec hopes to diversify Biogen's pipeline beyond the current MS franchise and the Alzheimer’s disease candidate aducanumab, which currently represents its largest pipeline opportunity — or risk, if it should fail.
During an earnings call on July 25, Biogen laid out a plan to shift resources back to its base neuroscience franchise; something it moved away from for several years under previous CEO George Scangos.
Biogen intends to redirect about $400 million annually by 2019 toward R&D and "commercial value creation opportunities," by "unlocking resources" within the portfolio.
"We believe our strategy will help support a healthy, resilient MS business for Biogen," said Vounatsos, who also touted the overall performance of its new SMA drug Spinraza and highlighting its value to the company.
"Overall, we believe Spinraza will become one of our largest commercial assets, shifting the center of gravity for Biogen beyond MS to generate new growth," he added.
On the call, Biogen execs said Spinraza will be a model for the types of drugs and deals the company wants to pursue. (Spinraza was developed through a deal with Ionis.)
Vounatsos also cited a recent deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb as the type of "growth-driving" deal that the company wants to replicate. In April, Biogen picked up a Phase 2-ready drug for Alzheimer’s disease and progressive supranuclear palsy from Bristol-Myers for $300 million upfront and the promise of $410 million in milestones.
While the company intends to retain its leadership position in MS, it hopes to move into other areas of neuroscience — through both R&D and business development.
"We plan to maximize our performance in the near-term, while focusing on growth in the future," said Vounatsos, who pointed to four key areas including MS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and SMA. He also noted that pain, ophthalmology, neuropsychiatry and acute neurology would be tangential areas of interest.
"Biogen has a long history in neurology and has built up substantial core competencies in the area. It is our belief that no other area of medicine holds as much promise, with as much need, as neuroscience," said EVP of R&D Mike Ehlers on the call.
"The opportunity space is vast and the time is right. With an ongoing revolution in basic neurobiology, human genetics, biomarkers, patient stratification and neural imaging, as well as increasing receptivity to clinical endpoints and regulatory paths, we believe that all signs point to neuroscience as the next oncology. Yet, for most companies, it is either not an area of focus or represents an opportunistic play. Our view is that success in neuroscience requires intense focus and that opportunistic approaches will not maximize value. There is a need for a leader in neuroscience. Our goal is to be that leader," he added.
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