Biogen cutting 11% of workforce, betting big on Alzheimer's R&D
- Biotech giant Biogen plans to eliminate 830 jobs, 11% of its overall workforce, by the end of 2015 as part of an overall restructuring plan.
- The overall goal is to save $250 million from 2016 onwards, in order to redirect money into several target pipeline projects, including three high-risk Alzheimer's disease (AD) drugs.
- One of the major areas that will be hit is Biogen's multiple sclerosis (MS) franchise.
Biogen is saying goodbye to its plans to develop its oral MS drug, Tecfidera, for an additional indication---secondary-progressive MS (SPMS). It is also no longer pursuing development of injectable Tysabri for SPMS, after a failure in phase 3. Other projects that are being discarded include a phase 2 lupus program and several pre-clinical programs focused on immunology and fibrosis.
So where is the money being reallocated? Towards more high-profile projects, including further development of its lead AD drug candidate, aducanumab, a phase 3 beta-amyloid antibody. Two other AD candidates are also in development, including another beta-amyloid antibody, which is in phase 2, and a BACE inhibitor in mid-stage development.
Biogen is partnered with Eisai for all of the AD projects. The partnership looks to be a good one, especially considering Eisai's deep experience in AD dating back to the mid-1990s, when Eisai and Pfizer completed development of Aricept (donepezil) and ultimately gained approval.
Biogen has other drugs in development in several therapeutic spaces, including spinal muscular atrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, and trigeminal neuralgia, but the biggest bet of all is still AD---an area rife with failure and full of potential---which could be worth $10 billion per year for the company and shift the treatment paradigm of one of the most challenging diseases that has ever existed.