Genmab grows up: Celebrating 25 years, CEO prepares to wield 'pretty good buying power'

Twenty-five years after launching, Genmab co-founder and CEO Jan van de Winkel, Ph.D., has earned himself the right to briefly bask in the company’s success. 

With eight approved therapies incorporating Genmab’s antibody tech, revenue is soaring, tripling since 2019 and up 13.5% year over year in 2023, according to an annual report. Meanwhile, the company’s cash on hand has quadrupled since 2019, and R&D investments are soaring. 

“The coming 25 years will be even better,” van de Winkel told Fierce Biotech in an interview.

But don’t mistake a victory lap with spinning off course. To the contrary, Genmab is just changing tires, with plans to race into pharma’s fast lane and remind the world that there’s another prominent Danish drugmaker that's not named Novo Nordisk. 

For van de Winkel, success starts with the science. That means investing in more antibody technology but also expanding the indications of existing assets, he says. The company’s R&D spending jumped 37% in 2023 compared to 2022, and 70% of operating expenses in 2023 went toward R&D. 

But taking a corporate leap forward will mean building out a commercial infrastructure that can sell Genmab’s products without the need to split revenue with a partner. The vast majority of Genmab’s 16.4 billion Danish kroner revenue in 2023 ($2.4 billion) came from royalties— 83% to be exact. 

“That's the next phase, basically—to hold on to these molecules,” van de Winkel said. He conceded that the company may look for partners in the Global South, but that largely, Genmab wants to be independent. Van de Winkel says Genmab now has the capabilities and capital to run multiple phase 3 trials in parallel, the exact kind of investment that it would have needed a partner to help pay for in years past. 

The solid financial footing also has Genmab on the acquisition hunt to further bolster the portfolio, specifically in search of molecules in later stages of development.

“Because now we also have the workforce that can actually develop it,” van de Winkel said. “Once we bring it in, we can actually develop it optimally and probably better than a small company can.” The CEO touted Genmab’s partnership experience as a selling point for biotechs looking for a buyer, saying that he would let a company run “independently or semi-independently.” 

He cautioned against putting a specific price range on an optimal deal, however, pointing to Genmab’s $4.2 billion in cash on hand. Above all, Genmab has “pretty good buying power,” meaning that growing through deals is “the right thing to do.” 

But as for price: “Let's park that question until we have done the deal.”