Biogen CEO Scangos aims to patch weak points in pipeline

After two years of sweeping change at Biogen Idec ($BIIB), CEO George Scangos (photo) and his team have some work to do on plugging some of the holes in the company's early-stage pipeline, from which many programs were cut during the company's exit from oncology and cardiovascular drug research.

"We didn't want to fund projects that were unlikely to generate value," Scangos told Dow Jones Newswires' Peter Loftus at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. There were 17 programs axed from the company's pipeline in 2010 and 2011, leaving the company with a wealth of late-stage programs, notably the potential blockbuster multiple sclerosis pill BG-12, but short on early-stage programs.

Steven Holtzman, Biogen's chief dealmaker, told FierceBiotech in an interview that he didn't view the shortage of early-stage programs as a problem for the company, but rather as an opportunity. The company, which is the world's top provider of MS drugs, is most interested in beefing up its pipeline in the areas of neurology, autoimmune diseases and hematology.

Hematology is one area in which the imbalance of late- versus early-stage compounds is particularly acute. Biogen expects later this year to report pivotal data from its late-stage hemophilia programs, including long-acting factor VIII and factor IX treatments, but the company has nothing in Phase I or Phase II to follow those products if they get approved.

"Hematology is an area we have not been in before. We're very interested in adding to that area, but we have to be thoughtful about when is the right time, because we have nothing to anchor it yet," Holtzman told FierceBiotech. "But we will have the data from the hematology products later this year, and if those look good, you might think about building out that franchise."

But the bottom line is that Biogen has an enviable late-stage pipeline, and there's no shortage of biotechs in the universe that are interested in finding partners for early-stage programs. So don't expect Scangos and Holtzman to lose sleep over the lack of Phase I programs.

- here's the Dow Jones article

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