Sticking to core values
Novo Nordisk A/S is dropping small molecules in order to focus on turning its mature biologics franchise into an engine for growth and diversification. By returning to its recombinant protein roots, the company hopes to protect its dominant diabetes care franchise, expand its growth disorder and hemostasis businesses, and establish a position in inflammatory diseases and oncology.
While the other big players in diabetes are pursuing newly commercialized targets and partnering with biotechs to pursue more novel approaches, NVO (Bagsvaerd, Denmark) is counting on its existing diabetes franchise to continue to drive double-digit annual overall sales growth (see "New Treatment Landscape," A2 & "New Diabetes Targets," A3).
The company believes it can maintain attractive growth rates by focusing on maintaining or growing its share of the worldwide diabetes market, which itself is expected to maintain robust double-digit growth for at least the next decade.
To do so, NVO aims to build a wall around its market lead in "modern insulins" - insulin analogs in convenient pre-filled devices or durable cartridges - where the company plans to develop improved products that will provide better market differentiation.
At the same time, NVO is aiming to be a fast follower where it has not been the first mover in its franchise areas, with an in-house GLP-1 inhibitor and AERx inhaled insulin from partner Aradigm Corp. (ARDM, Hayward, Calif.) in Phase III trials.
While NVO appears to be content to stay within its comfort zone, and shows little interest in being first out of the box with novel targets in its core areas, the company is promising to use its expertise in protein expression, protein engineering and autoimmunity to push new biological entities (NBEs) into the clinic over the next two years to treat cancer and inflammation.
As part of its strategy, NVO last month announced that it had abandoned R&D in small molecules that the company initiated in 1995. The closure of the program was not unexpected, as the company has not had much success in the area.
The first major disappointment was in 2002, when NVO terminated