Boehringer to Stay Out of Im­munother­apy Race

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit - Di­vya.Ra­jagopal@ times­

In­gel­heim: Even as in­no­va­tive pharma com­pa­nies speed up their race to bring the im­munother­apy can­cer drugs to the mar­ket, one of their own Boehringer In­gel­heim (BI) says it will stay out from this space, as the com­pany de­cides to nar­row down its fo­cus to meta­bolic dis­eases and biosimilar drugs. Im­munother­apy is a new break­through in can­cer treat­ment that uses body’s im­mune sys­tem to fight the dis­ease.

One of the most fa­mous pa­tients of a re­cently in­tro­duced im­munother­apy drug is for­mer US President Jimmy Carter who was treated with its drug Keytruda from Merck & Co.

“The PD-1 area is noth­ing we are go­ing to get into be­cause this has been cov­ered by oth­ers. We have some­thing in de­vel­op­ment, we are pretty late. Un­less we see some­thing real dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing ad­van­tage of our med­i­ca­tion, we don’t think we will be very suc­cess­ful,” said An­dres Barner, Chair­man of the Board of Manag­ing Di­rec­tors, BI, in an in­ter­view to ET at the compa- ny’s an­nual press con­fer­ence in Ger­many last week.

“But we are work­ing with CureVac for a tu­mour vac­ci­na­tion and I think there we can re­ally pro­vide value to the on­col­ogy area,” Barner added, as he leaves the com­pany in June this year af­ter spend­ing close to two decades, over­see­ing some of the big­gest drug launches that the firm has seen. He will be re­placed by Hu­ber­tus Von Baum­bach, great grand­son of Al­bert Boehringer, one of the founders of the com­pany.

The Ger­man drug maker’s de­ci­sion to step out from the im­munother­apy drugs is part of an over­all strate­gic vi­sion to fo­cus on key ther­apy ar­eas and exit non-core ar­eas. Last year, it de­cided to sell its generic busi­ness Rox­ane to Jor­da­nian firm Hikma Pharma for $2.5 bil­lion. It also started dis­cus­sions with French drug maker Sanofi to buy its an­i­mal health busi­ness in exchange for the con­sumer health busi­ness. These de­ci­sions have led the com­pany’s increased rev­enues of 14.8 bil­lion, a growth of 4.5%, tak­ing into ac­count the cur­rency ad­just­ments. On the R&D, BI, which in­vested 20% of its net sales in re­search, will soon start the trial for its anti-di­a­betic drug Jar­diance for treat­ing heart fail­ure.

Barner says these strate­gic changes are what will be the high­light of his ca­reer. He is par­tic­u­larly proud of Pradaxa, an an­ti­co­ag­u­lant drug (blood clot pre­ven­tion), which it launched dur­ing his ten­ure.

“My pos­i­tive mem­o­ries are more of the abil­ity to launch ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas and to add value to pa­tients. So, there is very clear strat­egy di­rec­tion. We know what to do like sell­ing Rox­ane (a generic com­pany), work­ing to­gether with Hikma, co­op­er­at­ing with Ab­bVie and hav­ing these swaps. I think, over­all, it’s a good sit­u­a­tion. Last year, the com­pany grew and it con­tin­ues to grow,” Barner ex­plained.

As BI strug­gles to grow in its home mar­ket, its fo­cus has shifted to­wards build­ing its part­ner­ships in biosimilar drugs and putting up a bil­lion-dol­lar fa­cil­ity in China, which is one the big­gest mar­kets for the com­pany. It may launch the biosimilar ver­sion of rheuma­toid arthri­tis drug Hu­mira which comes off patent in 2017. (This re­porter was in In­gel­heim on an

in­vi­ta­tion by Boehringer In­gel­heim)

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