Bayer plans to dial up its R&D budget on the hunt for new blockbusters

Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers

Bayer is gearing up to spend more than ever before on R&D this year, CEO Marijn Dekkers said, investing in innovation with hopes of pushing some promising therapies onto the market.

The German drugmaker is pouring about €4 billion ($4.5 billion) into research in 2015, Dekkers told Bild in a wide-ranging interview, a roughly 5% hike over the €3.6 billion ($4 billion) it committed last year.

That's more than the storied company has ever devoted to science, the CEO said, and Bayer plans to keep escalating its bet. Last year, the pharma giant disclosed a three-year growth strategy that will see it spend €11.2 billion ($12.7 billion) on R&D through 2016, earmarking another €7.3 billion ($8.3 billion) for dealmaking over the same period.

Among Bayer's most promising pipeline assets is copanlisib, a Phase III PI3k inhibitor for lymphoma, followed by the Phase II cardiology drugs finerenone and vericiguat. Meanwhile, the well-differentiated conglomerate is working through a novel effort to pool its intellectual capital, launching a program called Nimbus in which its researchers in crop science and human and animal drug development will share ideas in a hybrid R&D effort.

The company is riding a string of R&D successes over the past few years. In 2014, Bayer and then-partner, now-subsidiary Algeta won FDA approval for the prostate cancer drug Xofigo, for which sales could top out at around $1.5 billion, analysts say. The year before, the drugmaker swayed regulators with the colorectal cancer treatment Stivarga, adding to recent approvals for anticoagulant Xarelto, hypertension treatment Adempas and Regeneron's ($REGN) Eylea, on which Bayer has international rights.

Those 5 drugs brought in about $2.1 billion last year, Bayer said, and the company expects the group to eventually peak at roughly $10.3 billion in annual sales.

- read the Bild interview (in German)