Millennium, After Takeda Takeover, Shows Off Cancer Drug Pipeline

About 11 months ago, Cambridge, MA-based Millennium Pharmaceuticals agreed to be acquired by Tokyo-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals for $8.8 billion. We’ve already written some about how this deal presented Millennium’s CEO, Deborah Dunsire, some special challenges in terms of language barriers, cultural barriers, taking control of Takeda’s entire cancer drug portfolio, and trying to fit her company’s fast-moving biotech management style into the context of a global concern.

Last night (actually 10 am Tokyo time/9 pm Boston), Millennium apparently felt confident enough to shed some more light on its game plan. Executives described some of the highlights of the company’s pipeline of cancer drugs in front of financial analysts at Takeda’s Tokyo headquarters, and at least a few in the media (like me) staying up late back home in the States.

The crown jewel of this deal obviously was, and remains, bortezomib (Velcade). Sales of this drug for multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, grew by more than 40 percent last year, exceeding $1.1 billion worldwide. But as Dunsire explained to me last fall, Takeda also wanted Millennium’s in-house expertise in cancer drug development, and its pipeline. Millennium, she said last night, now has 13 drugs in development, with the goal of introducing three to four new drugs into clinical trials each year. The company aims to develop differentiated drugs that seek to hit targets on cells that have never been hit before, or novel compounds against targets that have been validated by other drugs.

The opportunity for developing new cancer drugs is vast and growing, because of improved understanding of the fundamental biology of what causes cells to become cancerous, Dunsire said. She showed one slide, citing data from Cowen & Co., that said the global market for cancer drugs, worth $66 billion in 2008, will grow to $84 billion by 2012. Another slide showed the world’s top makers of cancer drugs, ranked by revenue. Takeda was 11th, at $1.5 billion. Dunsire made it clear she wants to rise in those standings.

“We aspire to cure cancer,” Dunsire said. “I know and you know that hasn’t been done. We believe this will inspire us to bring forward extraordinary medicines.”

Here’s some of the highlights of what Millennium chose to present about what it considers its most promising candidates in the pipeline:

—MLN-9708. … Next Page »

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