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Revving the engine

Biogen Idec using key hire, academic collaborations to restart target discovery

After 18 months on the job, EVP of R&D Douglas Williams is making good on his promise to reignite target discovery efforts at Biogen Idec Inc., starting with several new hires, including a CSO from Harvard Medical School, and a series of academic collaborations.

When Williams finished pruning the pipeline in early 2011, Biogen Idec had eight Phase III programs but none in Phase II and just five in Phase I (see BioCentury, Aug. 29, 2011).

Two of the latter have since graduated to Phase II. Meanwhile, EVP of Corporate Development Steven Holtzman has brought in two more Phase II candidates, plus an option to a third in Phase I (see "Progress Report," A12).

Holtzman also added a discovery deal with Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced on June 29. Isis will receive $12 million up front to discover a lead candidate targeting dystrophia myotonica-protein kinase (DMPK; DM1) to treat myotonic dystrophy type 1. Biogen Idec will have an option to license the candidate through the completion of Phase II trials. The deal includes up to $59 million in milestones for Isis prior to licensing, and if Biogen Idec exercises the option, up to $200 million more

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