Biogen – an uncertain future

It’s not easy being a pharma. Biogen knows this well. Founded in 1978 in Geneva by a group of prominent scientists which include Nobel prize winners, Walter Gilbert and Philip Sharp, Biogen’s history has been filled with various ups and downs.

Currently, it’s not doing so hot for the following reasons:

  • Sales of its oral multiple sclerosis (MS) drug Tecfidera that used to draw in large revenues in 2014 have plateaued. Up to 4 cases of PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy), a rare and serious brain infection caused by a virus, have been reported with its use which probably explains why patients are not snapping it up.
  • Its other MS drugs (Avonex and Tysabri) have declining sales as other safer and better treatments are available.
  • It’s new drug opicinumab for multiple sclerosis (MS) failed a Phase 2 study in June, though they are not quite giving up on it yet.
  • It’s sold off its hemophilia drug business which used to provide pretty decent revenues.
  • It’s banking on a risky Alzheimer’s drug, currently in clinical trials, whose results have been mixed.
  • It’s closed down a manufacturing plant in Cambridge, and is reducing its workforce by 11% or possibly more.

And now its CEO, George Scangos will be stepping down. Investors are keen to see what’s next for Biogen which will likely involve some M&A.



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