Shire hails its best-ever pipeline with a 'busy' R&D year ahead

Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov

Shire ($SHPG) has laid out an ambitious goal of effectively doubling its revenue in the next few years, bringing in $10 billion by 2020, and CEO Flemming Ornskov said the acquisitive biotech has a bullpen of potential therapies that will help it come through on that promise.

Thanks to buyouts and internal innovation, the drugmaker now has 21 drugs in the clinic, "the strongest pipeline we've ever had," Ornskov said on a conference call with reporters.

"The work we've done advancing our pipeline will result in us having a very busy 2015," he said, pointing to a looming FDA decision on the dry eye treatment lifitegrast and coming Phase II data on the cholestatic liver disease drug SHP625.

Shire is also expecting to kick off clinical development of SHP626 this year, moving forward with a treatment for high-value target of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). And SHP607, a protein-replacement therapy for the rare retinopathy of prematurity currently in Phase II, is guaranteed a speedy regulatory review thanks to the FDA's fast-track designation.

Shire, which is awaiting the close of its $5.2 billion deal for NPS Pharma ($NPSP), isn't ruling out further acquisitions, though Ornskov demurred on questions about the company's reported interest in Salix Pharmaceuticals ($SLXP). The NPS buyout is Shire's 7th under Ornskov's watch, and the company wrapped up 2014 with roughly $3 billion in the bank, giving it both the pedigree and petty cash to pull another trigger.

Shire is quickly moving on after AbbVie's ($ABBV) plot to buy the company for $55 billion fell apart last year, giving the Irish drugmaker a new lease on freedom and a $1.6 billion breakup fee for its trouble. Ornskov's stated goal is to model his company after the biggest of Big Biotech, repeatedly name-checking Gilead Sciences ($GILD), Biogen Idec ($BIIB) and Celgene ($CELG) as companies that have identified their core strengths and built small empires around them.

For Shire, that central expertise is in rare diseases, and Ornskov is proceeding with a years-long effort to pare down the company's global reach and better focus on what it does best.

"Shire is transforming itself into a high-growth, more efficient and more innovative organization," Ornskov said. "We have a clear direction, and we're gaining momentum."

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