Shire chief: We want to be like Gilead, Biogen and Celgene

Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov

On the rebound after a dalliance with AbbVie ($ABBV) and its $55 billion red herring, Shire ($SHPG) CEO Flemming Ornskov is back on the offensive, talking up his company's potential to rub elbows with the biggest among Big Biotech.

Ornskov has been making the rounds since hosting Shire's first-ever R&D day earlier this week, getting out in front of investors and analysts with a straightforward message: He has moved on from the failed AbbVie merger, and the Irish drugmaker has a bright, independent future ahead. In an interview with Bloomberg, Ornskov hammered home Shire's belief that it can dominate the rare disease space, carving out a niche that will eventually bring its revenue to $10 billion a year.

"We look at companies like Gilead ($GILD)," Ornskov said. "We look at Biogen Idec ($BIIB). We look at Celgene ($CELG). These are companies that have expertise in select areas and have added hundreds of millions in market cap."

Each company has risen to prominence by homing in on what it does well--whether antivirals, multiple sclerosis treatments or oncology drugs. And while Shire's market value is considerably smaller, the company believes it's in a position to find similar success in rare diseases.

Ornskov's plan to get there involves pouring money into research--14% of company revenues currently go to R&D--and mounting an aggressive M&A campaign. The CEO has presided over 6 buyouts in his roughly two-year term at the helm, and, with an extra $1.6 billion in its pocket thanks to AbbVie, it's back on marketplace.

"We consistently look for either products or companies in (rare diseases), and what we look at is what are the opportunities? What are the unmet needs? And we scout the market for opportunities all the time," Ornskov said.

Beyond the discussions of strategy and aspirations to growth, Ornskov's underlying point is that Shire is a one-of-a-kind company that isn't going anywhere. When AbbVie and Shire agreed to terms in July, the drugmaker became something of an afterthought on the global biopharma scene. Now, striking out on its own, Shire is executing something of a branding campaign, working to remind investors and rivals of its potential as a disruptive force on the market.

- watch the interview

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