Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has called time on R&D in several therapy areas to focus more on priority fields, such as immuno-oncology, and bringing its late-stage pipeline to fruition.
The company will discontinue 'broad-based discovery work' in neuroscience, which has been a particularly difficult area for pharma of late, with a number of late-stage pipeline failures.
BMS will also halt such discovery work in hepatitis C and diabetes, but will keep supporting existing or late-stage candidates in two therapy areas.
Meanwhile, the plans will see BMS “executing development, regulatory and commercial plans” in diabetes and hepatitis C, while it focuses more wholeheartedly on HIV, hepatitis B, heart failure, oncology, immunoscience and fibrotic disease research.
Francis Cuss, BMS' chief scientific officer, said: “We have decided to shift R&D toward a more speciality biopharma model that focuses on the areas of significant unmet medical need, driving near-term growth through our current late-stage portfolio and on ensuring the long-term growth of the company by evolving the disease areas and drug platforms on which we concentrate our research efforts.”
Part of these plans will see BMS “evolve the disease areas and drug platforms on which we concentrate our research efforts to drive growth for the company in 2020 and beyond”, the company said.
But it pledged to continue to advance its oral anticoagulant Eliquis (apixaban); cancer drugs Sprycel (dasatinib) and Erbitux (cetuximab); Orencia (abatacept) for arthritis; hepatitis B treatment Baraclude (entecavir); and HIV drugs Reyataz (atazanavir sulfate)/Sustiva (efavirenz).
BMS also said it would increase investment in immuno-oncology, an area in which it see “significant opportunity” and which has already yielded its antibody treatments Erbitux, Yervoy (ipilimumab) and its anti-PD1 candidate nivolumab.
Diabetes research at BMS
Despite promising to keep up with its current diabetes franchise, the change in R&D direction throws into question BMS's billion-dollar diabetes alliance with AZ.
This stepped up a gear last year with the $7bn purchase of Amylin, the company behind Byetta and Bydureon, but recently the partners suffered a setback with Onglyza (saxagliptin) and are still waiting for US approval for Forxiga (dapagliflozin).
Analysts are already sizing up the sale prospects for BMS' diabetes franchise, with one predicting the company's interests outside the US could be worth $4bn-6bn.
But BMS' plans will reportedly hit just a small number of employees, with some 70 to 75 research positions set to be cut by the end of the year, and up to a further 300 facing changes in their roles.