What does $9 billion a year buy? In Roche's case, it's enough R&D money to back 72 development programs, including 19 late-stage studies and a dozen new drugs that represent the pharma giant's best hope for taking generic competition in stride. And today Roche ($RHHBY) showcased its top therapeutic prospects as it made its case to investors that the money is being invested wisely.
Not surprisingly, exhibit A in Roche's case is T-DM1, its lead antibody-drug conjugate that has produced impressive late-stage data for HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer. Roche spends about half of its R&D budget on cancer treatments, and T-DM1 is considered a likely winner as regulatory groups consider Roche's applications. Roche also highlighted RG7593, an early-stage ADC in Phase I for hematological cancers, with Phase I data underscoring its potential.
Its other top drugs:
- Onartuzumab is another antibody in Phase III for non-small cell lung cancer, with data expected to read out in 2014. It's designed to attack tumors that overexpress MET, representing another carefully targeted program.
- Obinutuzumab is an anti-CD20 antibody in Phase III for chronic lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
- Shifting to Alzheimer's, there's Gantenerumab, now in a Phase II/III study involving more than 700 patients. Roche is one of the leaders in pushing Alzheimer's research to patients who have a very early stage of the disease, testing whether eliminating amyloid beta early on can delay or stymie the ailment. Crenezumab, meanwhile, is in Phase II and is being prepped for a unique study on a high-risk population.
- Then there's the PCSK9 program for RG7652, lowering LDL in a search for a new drug that can significantly help people at risk of cardiovascular disease. A Phase II study is now underway with results expected next year. A number of companies now have PCSK9 programs in the clinic in search of an approval for one of the most promising fields in drug research.
"Roche's strategy is based on developing differentiated medicines and diagnostics in areas of high unmet need that bring true medical benefit to patients," said Severin Schwan, CEO of Roche. "More than 60% of our pharmaceutical pipeline projects are coupled with the development of companion diagnostics in order to make treatments more effective. The recent launches of our cancer medicines Perjeta and Zelboraf are examples of the concept of personalized healthcare becoming reality."
Schwan plans to keep the R&D budget stable. This year, that required the sacrifice of its storied R&D complex in Nutley, NJ. But the pharma giant showed no signs of joining the companies like Pfizer which are chopping away at the budget in order to boost the bottom line.
Special Report: Roche - The Biggest R&D Spenders In Biopharma