Longtime R&D critic Valeant finds itself with a growing pipeline, and a setback

Valeant CEO Michael Pearson has never been a fan of drug R&D. Openly caustic in the past about the risk involved in drug research, Valeant's chief executive has largely steered clear of developing a pipeline, focusing instead on a clear strategy involving the rapid acquisition of marketed drugs.

Today, though, in a review of the swelling company's ($VRX) performance in 2013, Pearson pointed to a growing research effort at the company, much of it driven by his acquisition of Bausch & Lomb, which had been a player in the market for new eye drugs. Valeant's pipeline review included one dead program--mapracort, a glucocorticoid receptor agonist that failed in Phase III at treating pain and inflammation after cataract surgery.

Among the company's late-stage prospects are brimonidine, a glaucoma drug being repurposed as an eye whitener with a planned submission date in 2015, and latanoprostene bunod for glaucoma (which Bausch & Lomb had inlicensed from Nicox), with Phase III data due in the second half of this year, according to Valeant's presentation to investors.

The company also noted plans to spend $200 million on R&D in the first half of this year as it wraps late-stage efforts, a substantial increase for a company with a pronounced distaste for clinical trials. In all of last year Valeant spent $157 million on R&D, compared to $79 million the year before.

"Most pharmaceutical companies are focused on research and development and developing their own pipeline of new product introductions, whereas we actually choose to invest in the acquisitions as our source of innovation," Pearson told the Wall Street Journal back in 2012. And even with a pipeline in house, that philosophy fundamentally hasn't changed.

But Valeant's R&D experience may continue to grow in the near future. Pearson has his eye on as many as 50 potential biopharma deals.

"In terms of the number of opportunities out there, it's not five, 10 or 15, it's probably closer to 50," Pearson told analysts today, according to the report from Reuters. That includes private companies, pieces of public companies, U.S. companies and international outfits as well.

Some of them may even add to the pipeline.

- here's the presentation on the 2013 numbers
- here's Reuters' report

Special Report: The most influential people in biopharma today - J. Michael Pearson