Once aiming to double oncology pipeline, Servier's US branch touts rapid pace in building its foothold in the space
The US subsidiary of French pharma Servier has only been in existence for a touch under three years, but it hasn’t wasted a second — snapping up collaboration agreements and other deals that have propelled the company toward its main goal of becoming a major player in the oncological therapeutics industry.
David Lee, Servier Pharmaceuticals’ CEO, told Endpoints News that biopharma is making a clear shift toward targeting cancer therapies of all kinds, and Servier wants to be a part of it. Lee was named head of Servier’s US commercial branch when it launched in July 2018, and his goal was ambitious: double the company’s oncology portfolio by 2025.
Servier’s already on pace to exceed that benchmark — tripling the company’s portfolio rather than merely doubling it.
“We’re able to invest a lot of our revenue in R&D, and then we started committing 50% of that spend in R&D into oncology — so we’re really focusing on oncology,” Lee said. “And the goal really is to really build out oncology the way we did in cardiovascular and cardiology (therapies). So this is our primary focus.”
That focus has spurred three products targeting hematologic malignancies, a portfolio of GI tumor products, biologics, and a series of small molecules from a partnership with Novartis — in other words, setting the stage for “very consequential pipelines” down the road, Lee said.
“The goal is to really kind of develop a franchise,” he said. “To further go deeper into liquid tumors … and then to build out (our impact in) solid tumors.”
Servier’s blitz into the field of oncology therapeutics has included its parent company making a whirlwind series of deals over the past year which have helped speed up Lee’s admittedly-ambitious goals from when he took the helm of the US branch.
In April, Servier bought up Symphogen, a then-private biotech company focused on recombinant antibodies to be used in oncology treatments. which will enable it to strengthen its antibody capabilities in oncology. And on Dec. 21, the company announced two major deals — the first, purchasing Agios Pharmaceuticals, a targeted oncology business, for up to $2 billion; and the second, collaborating with Boston-area biotech Celsius Therapeutics to seek targeted therapies for colorectal cancer.
Five years ago, when Lee was the head of Shire’s global genetic diseases and oncology franchises, he recalls an industry estimate that investments in cancer therapeutics would grow somewhere between 7% and 11% in the next half-decade. As far as he’s aware, Lee said the industry has definitely hit the 11% mark.
“The two most exciting areas in our pharmaceutical industry right now are oncology and these rare genetic diseases,” he said. “(It’s) kind of the two areas in pharmacology you really see that are reflected in the valuations and the premiums that people are paying for these deals.”
This can be attributed to two main factors, Lee speculates.
“Number one is much more targeted therapies coming to oncology. So, you have a lot of these new assets that are paired with biomarkers (and) diagnostic tools that can really get us to more targeted patient populations,” he said. “Number two is a lot of these assets are going to smaller tumors. So smaller patient populations and more niche tumor types.”
Servier is not doing a standalone presentation at JP Morgan this year, but Lee said the company planned to have many meetings with industry stakeholders over the next few days as it continues to expand an increasingly diverse drug portfolio.