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Eisai: Bucking the trend with R&D growth

PME’s emerging companies series continues with a firm that’s committed to research as it expands its commercial position

EISAI 

At a time when some pharmaceutical companies are cutting R&D spending as a short-term tactic to maximise business returns, one firm is committed to doing things differently.

2010 may have seen the first-ever decline in pharma's global research spending, but Japanese pharma company Eisai has been bucking the trend, investing on average £1.2bn into R&D each year for the last five years.

“We are a specialised R&D company,” explains EMEA president and CEO Gary Hendler. “We really are looking for innovative new medicines to treat diseases where there's an unmet need.”

“But Eisai is a medium sized company. We're not a huge company, but we're not a start-up. So people can join and have the opportunity to make a big personal impact - and that's why most of us, myself included, joined the company.”

Research pipeline
Research at Eisai is focused on three key areas: neuroscience, oncology and vascular/immunological diseases. 

In its late-stage pipeline Eisai has enviable prospects in oncology in the form of two very strong, innovative drugs. The monoclonal antibody farletuzumab is in phase III trials for ovarian cancer, and has reached the phase II stage for non-small cell lung cancer, while lenvatinib is also in phase III, this time for thyroid cancer.

There's the opportunity to make a big impact at Eisai - that's why most of us, myself included, joined the company.

Dementia research is another priority area and the company is the second largest private dementia-focused research group in the UK. Having revolutionised the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and dementia in the early 1990s with Aricept , its newer efforts are paying off, with positive phase I results from its Alzheimer's BACE inhibitor E2609.

Commercial expansion
But it's not just in research spending that Eisai is bucking industry trends. As other companies are forced to make difficult decisions about the size of their businesses, Eisai is expanding. 

In 2009 it opened its £100m EMEA headquarters in Hatfield in the UK and then in September 2012 the company made another significant investment in Hatfield to boost its manufacturing capacity by adding a new solid dose global manufacturing line for its anti-epileptic medicine Fycompa.

Fycompa is a key drug for the company as it works towards a leadership position in epilepsy, building on a well-rounded portfolio that includes Zonegran and orphan drug Inovelon.

First launched in Europe in in September 2012, Fycompa is still only part way through a European launch programme that began with Germany, the UK, Austria and Denmark. Fycompa was the first Eisai-developed epilepsy drug and it's “a drug we can really differentiate”, says Hendler.

The company is also still very much in launch mode with its first cancer drug Halaven, which has been brought to most of the major European markets.

“Halaven's unique position as the only drug demonstrating overall survival benefit in patients who are heavily treated for metastatic breast cancer as a monotherapy gives us a very good competitive advantage,” says Hendler.

“Baring in mind Eisai has no heritage of developing cancer drugs, it shows that if you have a fantastic drug you can enter even very competitive markets like oncology and be successful.”

A hub for the EU and beyond
Eisai is in the process of finalising its expansion into the key regional markets of Russia and South Africa. Partnerships are one option for the company and it's certainly an area Eisai knows a thing or two about, having worked very successfully with Pfizer on Aricept and J&J on Pariet. “We know about the complexities of partnership and how to make the best of them,” comments Hendler.

But whatever tactics are adopted, Eisai's strategy of moving from a base of strength in the UK means the company is perfectly positioned as it expands across the EU, Eastern Europe, Russia and the Arab peninsula.

For more information about Eisai EMEA & Russia visit www.eisai.co.uk or telephone +44 (0)208 600 1400 

Other articles in the Emerging Companies series

22nd November 2012

22nd November 2012

From: Research, Sales

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