Actelion: New directions

Source: Actelion

Actelion: New directions

2011: $516 million
2010: $508 million
As a percentage of revenue: 25%
Research chief: Guy Braunstein

Actelion ($ATLN) earned its reputation as a one-trick pony years ago. And it's been paying for the rep ever since.

Its big earner is Tracleer, a blockbuster drug for pulmonary arterial hypertension. And over the past two years all anyone really heard about was the fate of macitentan, its next-gen drug that was in late-stage studies. Without a macitentan approval, Actelion was facing the loss of a franchise that brings in 87% of its revenue. And it has been betting a half billion dollars a year on an R&D group with one overwhelming focus.

Until a few weeks ago, that is.

That's when Actelion--founded by Jean-Paul Clozel in 1997--announced that its late-stage program for macitentan was a success. And in short order the company made a sharp turn in R&D direction, announcing plans to start doing deals on specialty medicines while relying on its pipeline of antibiotics and immunomodulation drugs to provide a secondary focus for future products.

With macitentan moving from the development sphere into the regulatory arena, Actelion says that it can reduce R&D spending in the near term. And if it can execute on key approvals, the company says it can generate double-digit growth in 2015. 

Now that the macitentan hurdle appears to have been overcome, though, you can expect to hear plenty of buzz about a takeover. Pharma companies hunting for near-term product revenue could do worse than picking up a company like Actelion. And Amgen ($AMGN) is often mentioned as a likely buyer.

After beating back an investor rebellion as it hunkered down in Basel, Switzerland, Actelion has become isolated and independent from much of the industry. There are strengths and weaknesses that come from that strategy. But don't expect to be overwhelmed by inside looks at what the company has planned. That door usually stays closed.

Actelion: New directions
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