Championing next-gen personalized meds
Severin Schwan has been a difference maker in the business of targeted cancer drugs and understanding the role diagnostics play in matching the right patients with the right treatments. While not all pharma chiefs are willing to pump as much money as Roche ($RHHBY) into diagnostics and gene sequencing platforms, many of them have been pushing their own companies to follow the lead of targeted drugs such as Roche's Herceptin for breast cancer.
Schwan, of course, pulled the trigger on his Swiss company's landmark acquisition of Genentech in 2009, a megamerger that solidified Roche as the largest provider of cancer drugs in the world. And now the CEO of Roche has his sights set on transforming his company into the world's leader proving DNA sequencers--viewed as essential tools for pinpointing the genetic targets for personalized drugs and diagnostics--via the company's hostile bid to buy Illumina ($ILMN) for $5.7 billion.
Roche very well could end up owning Illumina. Yet even without the San Diego-based maker of DNA decoders, thanks in part of Schwan's leadership, Roche has the infrastructure to both develop drugs against specific genetic targets and introduce companion diagnostics for those therapies. Now, as we see over and over, most major biopharma outfits want a piece of the targeted drug business, with other heavyweights such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) eager to grow their own pieces of the targeted drug pie.
Targeted drugs aim to take out the drivers of diseases and reduce side effects on patients, traits that also make the treatments good for business. Schwann has repeated over and over his cause to make the pharma side of Roche laser focused on innovative drugs to deliver big benefits for patients, expecting only those remedies to garner premium prices from cost-conscious health payers and governments.
Along the innovation lines, Schwan has honored a tradition at Roche of diligent exploration of diseases and development of new drugs since taking over as CEO in 2008. And the company's R&D efforts have positioned the company to bring a slate of potential blockbusters to market, including its projected megablockbuster cardiovascular drug dalcetrapib.