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A milestone year for Roche’s CNS gambit could kick off its plan for the decade

Roche putting CNS as the growth driver of the next decade; 2020 might be the year it takes off

A ramped up focus on CNS that has been long in the making could start to pay off this year for Roche, which has two programs slated for launch and four others with late-stage readouts on the docket. The goal is to build neurology as a second crown jewel to oncology. That will mean Roche keeping its foot on the gas with partnering, as it scouts for new technologies and digital health tools that can improve patient outcomes and differentiate its portfolio.

Buysiders have already tagged neuroscience as a space ripe for new drugs and clinical data this year (see “Why Buysiders Say 2020 Could be the Year of the CNS”).

Roche (SIX:ROG; OTCQB:RHHBY) is going a step further, predicting that CNS could be its new growth driver for the decade.

“Neuroscience has the potential in the twenties to be what oncology was in the last decade and we have put a strong development effort there,” said William Anderson, CEO of the Roche Pharma unit, at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference on January 14.

While pharmas and big biotechs largely abandoned CNS over the last decade, Roche dug in deeper, retaining neuroscience as a focus area in a 2007 R&D reorganization (see “Contrarian Thinking”).

The gambit has given it one of the largest CNS pipelines by NMEs among its peers. The lone exception is Biogen Inc. (NASDAQ:BIIB), which has focused its pipeline of 20-plus clinical programs almost exclusively on neuroscience.

“Neuroscience has the potential in the twenties to be what oncology was in the last decade.”

William Anderson, Roche


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