- Amgen is stopping the vast majority of its neuroscience research, as company executives concluded their efforts are unlikely to yield long-term success, R&D head David Reese said Tuesday during a company earnings presentation.
- "Upon careful evaluation of our pipeline and the challenges inherent in developing drugs for major neurologic diseases, we've made the decision to end our neuroscience research and early development programs with the exception of programs centered on neuro-inflammation," said Reese, indicating the latter would be advanced by Amgen's inflammation therapeutic area teams.
- In doing so, the biotech giant joins many industry leaders which have exited or pared down their work on neurological diseases. Over the past several years, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have left or cut R&D in the space.
Recent scientific breakthroughs have transformed treatment of some cancers, as well as a number of rare genetic diseases. But disease-modifying medicines for the most prominent diseases of the brain, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, have remained elusive.
Earlier this year, Amgen reported a major clinical setback in Alzheimer's. Along with its partner Novartis, the drugmaker stopped two studies testing an experimental BACE inhibitor in pre-symptomatic patients with the neurodegenerative disease.
The trial failure was one of many for the Alzheimer's field, but, for Amgen, it brought to a close the only named clinical neuroscience program in its pipeline outside of the approved migraine therapy Aimovig (erenumab).
Now, Amgen will steer its internal R&D efforts clear of neuroscience, prioritizing instead cardiovascular disease, oncology and inflammatory diseases. As a result of the decision, approximately 180 roles will be affected, according to a company spokesperson.
"We made the difficult decision to end our research in neuroscience, which is largely based in Cambridge, Mass.," said the spokesperson in an emailed statement. "We are consolidating our U.S.-based research presence primarily in Thousand Oaks and San Francisco."
On Tuesday's earnings call, company executives previewed how Amgen could stay involved via partnerships. CEO Bob Bradway said they'll explore models with venture capital or academic institutions, particularly via deCODE, a subsidiary specializing in genetics, to better understand these diseases.
"We believe that genetics will ultimately drive progress in this area, and we'll continue to work with deCODE to generate insights," Bradway said on the Tuesday call.
Reese also added the company will maintain support for the ongoing clinical development of its migraine therapy, Aimovig (erenumab).
Amgen's decision bears similarities with those taken by some of its peers.
Pfizer, for instance, first announced its intention to halt neuroscience work in January 2018. Several months later, the big pharma teamed up with Bain Capital to launch a start-up called Cerevel that took over development efforts for many of Pfizer's CNS compounds.
Still, there are a handful of industry players that have bucked the trend. Last month, the Danish drugmaker Lundbeck reached a deal to acquire Alder BioPharmaceuticals for $1.95 billion.
And Biogen has remained focused on developing central nervous system treatments, even as it has suffered multiple clinical failures. In a shocking turn, the big biotech recently revived development efforts for an experimental Alzheimer's drug.