AbbVie celebrates New Year's Day as a big new biopharma player

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The biopharma industry rang in the New Year with a big independent player to add to its roster. After 15 months of planning, AbbVie ($ABBV) has split away from Abbott ($ABT), complete with a pipeline of more than 20 mid- and late-stage therapies, $18 billion in revenue and a commercial operation that spans the globe.

AbbVie's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. Its blockbuster drug is Humira, which earns about half of its revenue. Now the number one drug in the world by sales, Humira is expected to earn $10 billion this year, dominating the rheumatoid arthritis market. But the big money train will start to slow in 2016, when Humira loses patent protection and faces less-expensive knockoffs. The market for follow-on therapies isn't like the traditional generic market--which can blast revenue from traditional small molecule drugs in a matter of weeks--but AbbVie will have to look to its R&D group to provide new products for growth.

That's why in today's press release AbbVie is heralding its pipeline work. AbbVie has been a busy dealmaker in the past year, signing some big pacts with biotech companies. It's made headlines with a compelling hepatitis C program and is working in rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, spondyloarthropathies, multiple myeloma and endometriosis.

Conspicuously missing from that list is chronic kidney disease. In the lead-up to the corporate split Abbott committed close to a billion dollars in upfront payments and near-term cash to partner on Reata Pharmaceuticals' bardoxolone and a next-gen portfolio of CKD drugs. But the Phase III program was shuttered in October after the drug was linked to a higher rate of death. Since then, virtually nothing has been said about it.

- here's the press release

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