Bayer sets out stall for life sciences future

Bayer has a well-stocked pipeline but is still interested in acquiring new projects as it prepares for its future as a life sciences specialist, according to chief executive Marijn Dekkers.

The German group – which announced its intention to spin-out its material sciences business in September and become a pure-play in human, animal and plant health – now has 57 projects in clinical development including 18 in phase III, said Dekkers at Bayer’s strategic update yesterday.

Five new projects are due to start late-stage clinical trials in 2015, he added, namely finerenone and vericiguat for chronic heart failure, molidustat for renal anaemia, copanlisib for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and vilaprisan, a therapy for uterine fibroids.

The new crop comes whilst Bayer is still rolling out a block of five recently-launched drugs that it expects to add €7.5 billion to its annual revenues at peak.

The five – anticoagulant Xarelto (rivaroxaban), eye drug Eylea (aflibercept), cancer therapies Stivarga (regorafenib) and Xofigo (radium 223) and pulmonary hypertension treatment Adempas (riociguat) – brought in €2.1 billion in the first nine months of the year and should reach €2.8 billion by year-end, said Dekkers.

“The success of our recent product introductions has created great growth momentum for us,” he added.

Bayer’s R&D head Kemal Malik also highlighted the company’s new recombinant Factor VIII product BAY 81-8973, which can be administered two or three times a week and is scheduled for filing before the end of the year, as well as a once-weekly formulation (damoctocog alfa pego) that could be filed in 2016.

In anticipation of those new products, Bayer is making around €500 million in capital investments, including an expansion in production capacity at plants in Wuppertal and Leverkusen.

In addition to the haemophilia pipeline, Malik also put a spotlight on Bayer’s eyedrop formulation of regorafenib that could do away with the need for intravitreal injections in patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and Orion Pharma-partnered ODM-201, an orally-active androgen receptor modulator in phase III trials for prostate cancer.

Dekkers also said that Bayer’s R&D budget – €2.2 billion for healthcare in 2014 – will rise at a rate higher than the sales increase in 2015 in order to fund the many “exciting projects” in the company’s late-stage pipeline.

“Overall, we expect the R&D-to-sales ratio to increase in the coming years,” he said.

Dekkers also said Bayer is still interested in new acquisitions in the consumer health area, despite just spending $14.2 billion to buy Merck & Co’s operations in a deal which closed at the beginning of October and made the company “the second-largest over-the-counter business worldwide”.

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$14.2bn to buy Merck & Co’s operations

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