R&D

Alexion joins the R&D reorganization gala, pruning a slate of projects and revving up new deals

Alexion CEO Ludwig Hantson is pulling the trigger on a pipeline reorganization, joining a mid-year gala of restructurings led by new CEOs at GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly and Biogen.

In the revamp the biotech will now drop ALXN1101 (cPMP replacement therapy) and ALXN6000 (samalizumab), looking for buyers to pick these therapies up. And it is punting an ambitious effort on a range of preclinical pacts with Moderna, Blueprint and Arbutus.

Alexion shares surged 6% in pre-market trading on a very newsy morning.

Alexion paid Moderna $100 million upfront to partner on up to 10 programs, which now revert back to the Cambridge, MA-based biotech. Alexion tied up with Blueprint on a 2015 discovery deal, anteing up $15 million and promising up to $250 million more. Arbutus $ABUS came into the picture much more recently, signing on to an $82.5 million deal in March.

In vogue now are new BD deals to redirect R&D in rare diseases while streamlining wherever it can in an effort to get the company back on track.

Says Hantson:

We will achieve this by growing our rare disease business, leveraging our expertise in complement, pursuing disciplined business development to expand the pipeline, and taking steps to optimize our infrastructure and operating model.

That’s all right in line from what we’ve been hearing this week from Emma Walmsley at GSK, Lilly’s Dave Ricks and Biogen’s Michel Vounatsos, who have also been cleaning the R&D house as they prep for new deals.

Hantson, who briefly ran Baxalta before Shire stepped in with a buyout, has been grumbling about the pipeline at Alexion ever since his arrival, leaving plenty of writing on the wall to point to this revamp. The company is hugely dependent on Soliris, its expensive rare disease drug , for most of its revenue. The CEO – brought in after the company was hit with various allegations over the way it was handling sales and revenue – has only been satisfied with a next-gen drug for the Soliris franchise.

Over the last few months Alexion has been undergoing a top-to-bottom revamp in the executive suite. The new management team wants a new pipeline, and they will be starting over with a largely blank drawing board. That could be pricey. But analysts are happy to see the moves. Notes Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges this morning:

Alexion’s new management effectively cleaned house on their prior development portfolio, terminating two non-complement and non-core development programs, and re-focusing the company’s strategy….Alexion has now fully enrolled the ALXN1210 phase III treatment-naïve PNH study, and expects data in Q2 2018. The company’s Soliris NMO trial, which has faced recent delays, has also been confirmed to finish enrollment in 2017 for data in early 2018.”

 



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