Bristol-Myers taps gas on ambitious 2012 R&D strategy

Don't look for Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) to back away from its ambitious, multibillion-dollar R&D strategy anytime this year. After racking up a billion dollars in research expenses for the fourth quarter--flat compared with the same period a year ago, the impressive biotech company says that it is planning to boost R&D spending this year in the "low single digits."

BMS is coming off a mixed fourth quarter. After boasting a string of successes in the clinic, the developer was forced to concede that its late-stage cancer drug brivanib failed a Phase III study. And after losing an expert panel vote on the diabetes drug dapagliflozin, the agency formally rejected the treatment earlier this month with demands for more clinical data. But BMS is off to an ambitious start of the year with its $2.5 billion Inhibitex ($INHX) buyout and an ongoing hep C drug partnership with Pharmasset ($VRUS), recently acquired by Gilead Sciences ($GILD), putting it squarely in the front of a hot race to the next game-changing therapy.

Its R&D budget, a bellwether among large developers, swelled to $3.8 billion, up from $3.5 billion in 2010. And based on company projections it looks to keep growing at a somewhat slower pace this year. In its release today, BMS said 30% to 40% of its total R&D budget was being earmarked for late-stage development work, fueling new programs that should continue to beef up the revenue potential at the company.

"Our delivery of several important new products to patients, the ability of our productive R&D organization to build an innovative and diverse pipeline, and our continued commitment to business development gives us confidence in our future," says BMS CEO Lamberto Andreotti, one of the few biotech execs with plenty to boast about. "In 2012, we will build on the momentum of 2011 as we transition beyond the loss of exclusivity of Plavix and Avapro."

- here's the press release