Biogen Inc.’s new chief executive officer outlined some of his first steps toward his vision for the biotechnology company with plans to boost investment in new drugs the company is developing for Alzheimer’s disease, lupus and other illnesses.
Chris Viehbacher, the former Sanofi SA chief who took Biogen’s reins in November, said the company will also explore deals to expand its remit beyond its historical focus of neuroscience. Areas Biogen may consider include neuropsychiatry, immunology and rare diseases, Viehbacher said on a call with reporters alongside the company’s fourth-quarter earnings release.
“We live in one of the most prolific scientific and development communities in the world, and it would certainly make sense that Biogen continues to take advantage of that and think about those external growth opportunities,” he said.
Biogen’s groundbreaking multiple sclerosis drugs fueled the company for years, but some of them are facing competition and the business is shrinking. Emphasizing innovation will restore Biogen to its initial focus and ideally result in new medicines that can help the company grow again, Viehbacher said.
“There wasn’t a lot of point hiring me if you don’t want to go do deals,” he said on a separate call with analysts.
A longtime drug executive, Viehbacher sees potential with Leqembi, the newly introduced drug for Alzheimer’s disease and zuranolone, a treatment for depression on the horizon. Within Biogen’s pipeline, Viehbacher wants to focus on its experimental Alzheimer’s treatment that targets a different component than Leqembi and another program for lupus.
Meanwhile, Biogen will prune its portfolio. It dumped an experimental non-opioid pain drug and terminated a deal with InnoCare Pharma for a multiple sclerosis drug. It’s also exploring strategic alternatives for its biosimilars business that makes copies of branded biologic drugs, he said. That unit brought in $751.1 million last year.
“There have been a number of pet projects around and other areas where we’re spending money, and I think one of the things I’m really trying to drive is focus in the company,” Viehbacher said on the call with analysts.
The drugmaker forecast 2023 adjusted profit from $15 to $16 a share roughly in line with the average Wall Street estimate of $15.87. Sales will decline in a mid-single-digit percentage range from a year earlier, Biogen said. The revenue outlook “underscores Biogen’s near-term challenges,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Marc Engelsgjerd said in a note.
The shuffle in leadership at the company will continue at Biogen. Viehbacher said longtime chairman Stelios Papadopoulos will step down this year when he reaches the 75-year age limit, and there may be additional changes.
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