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Amgen exits neuroscience R&D to focus on growth areas

Move has resulted in loss of around 180 jobs

Amgen

Amgen has decided that neuroscience R&D is too high-risk, and is pulling most of its projects in that area resulting in the loss of around 180 jobs.

The decision comes after a period of mixed fortunes for Amgen’s neuroscience operations. The unit scored a victory with the recent approval and launch of chronic migraine drug Aimovig (erenumab), but earlier this year was forced to abandon its umibecestat candidate for Alzheimer’s disease after trials suggested patients did worse on the drug than on placebo.

David ReeseAmgen’s head of R&D David Reese (pictured left) said on the company’s third-quarter results call that “we've made the decision to end our neuroscience research and early development programmes, with the exception of programmes centred on neuro inflammation.”

“We believe that in order to compete effectively, we need to make investments in the areas and platforms that will position us for long-term success.”

The latter projects will be taken over by its inflammation research teams, said Amgen, with the job losses expected to hit the hardest at its R&D facilities in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and South San Francisco in the US.

Amgen chief executive Bob Bradway (pictured below, right) said that the company is retaining an interest in the genetics of neurological diseases, for Bob Bradwayexample through its collaboration with deCode Genetics, and will be “exploring potentially different models for doing that with venture capital and perhaps academic institutions as well”.

That suggests Amgen may be considering going down a path already trodden by Pfizer, which announced it was ducking out of neuroscience R&D last year. Shortly after, it spun its most promising projects into a spinoff company called Cereval Therapeutics, whilst also continuing to provide seed funding for start-ups via its Pfizer Ventures arm.

Bradway added he sees more potential for Amgen in areas such as cardiovascular disease inflammation and oncology.

Amgen and Pfizer are only the latest big pharma companies to pull back from neuroscience, which has been characterised in recent years by dozens of failed projects in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases and escalating costs.

GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Merck & Co and Bristol-Myers Squibb are others that have decided the rewards of investing in this area are too remote, and the risks too great.

Meanwhile, those that have stayed the course, like Biogen, have paid the price in failed projects and dented investor confidence, notwithstanding the resurrection of its once written-off Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab earlier this month.

Away from its neuroscience news, Amgen reported a 3% decline in revenues to $5.74bn on its third-quarter update, with red blood cell stimulators Neupogen and Neulasta both plummeting around a third on biosimilar competition.

There was however an impressive $173m coming from Amgen’s own biosimilars business, up from $82m in the second quarter, with other gains for osteoporosis therapy Prolia (denosumab) – up 18% to $630m – and cholesterol antibody Repatha (evolocumab) which grew 40% to $168m after several quarters of sluggish growth.

Article by
Phil Taylor

31st October 2019

From: Research

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