Tysabri’s PML Count Climbs to 28, and Some Reflections From Biogen Idec’s Departing CEO

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treat patients who are negative, at least some of them, more aggressively, and earlier. So that’s a potential opening to go there. Everything else we learn over time to further parse the risk is all to their benefit.”

On what worked, and what didn’t, in Biogen’s 2003 merger with San Diego-based Idec Pharmaceuticals:

“Now you’re really taking us back to ancient history. Here’s what went as expected. The combination of the two companies really allowed us to fundamentally re-allocate capital in a different way than either one was doing. They had a lot of the oncology infrastructure. We had the international footprint. We brought better manufacturing capabilities. They brought much better process sciences. Developing the processes to go into manufacturing. That has had a terrific payoff. Those two things came together seamlessly. It allowed us to compete much better, and more broadly, on business development. We’ve done a lot of small and mid-sized deals. Half of the pipeline today comes out of business development.

“In terms of things that exceeded expectations from the original models we had? Rituxan is much bigger. By being in RA [rheumatoid arthritis, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma], the whole CD20 area turns out to be more important. As does the durability and size of the Avonex business and the MS franchise, which turned out to be better.

“But some of the products that were in the pipeline at that point that we thought would be important products, frankly, they haven’t. Amevive basically got wiped out by the anti-TNFs [what’s that]. Raptiva is gone from the market, it has a little problem with that three-letter word we don’t like to say—PML. That’s gone from the market, Amevive is still on the market, but disappointing. Zevalin never really lived up to what we hoped would be its commercial potential. And some of the late-stage pipeline candidates evaporated, as tends to happen in this business.

“From an integration of people standpoint, it always takes a little longer, but right now, it works pretty well. The R&D being bi-coastal works very seamlessly and smoothly. Most oncology is done on the West Coast, most of the immunology is done on the East Coast, but some is on the West Coast, and pretty much all of the neurology is on the East Coast. Then there’s a lot of shared infrastructure, and that works pretty well.”

On the biggest surprises of his 20-year career in biotechnology:

“What surprises me is that it’s very hard to pick out which technologies and products will turn into the blockbusters. I remember the conversations going in the early ’90s, happening in our place, when people said, ‘This monoclonal antibody stuff, it’s not going to turn into any products.’ It’s not quite right. And we are one of the biggest beneficiaries … Next Page »

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2 responses to “Tysabri’s PML Count Climbs to 28, and Some Reflections From Biogen Idec’s Departing CEO”

  1. “how to mitigate the risk for multiple sclerosis patients”

    Why not stop taking immune crushing drugs for a vascular disorder! Get an MRI of the venous system to see if you have CCSVI. Correctible by an out-patient angioplasty procedure. No more MS!