Biologic rebirth

Compared to most of big pharma, the pharmaceutical company that is now Wyeth got a number of significant biotech assets relatively early on. But apart from driving some products already in development to market, it did little in the latter half of the 1990s and early 2000s to take advantage of those assets. Indeed, the core biologics group actually took a detour into small molecules in that period.

That all changed in 2003, as new management undertook several R&D initiatives, including revamping drug discovery and refocusing on the company's bio-logics assets. WYE now believes that it can put up to four large molecules into the clinic each year, and that biologics could grow from about 30% of sales today to 40-50% or more by 2012, especially if its Alzheimer's disease products are successful.

Indeed, while WYE wasn't the first big pharma to get into large molecules, it says its biologics group alone would be the fourth largest biopharmaceutical company in the world as measured by revenue.

The key was harnessing the internal biological expertise that it says had gone astray, while also breaking down the walls between large and small molecule discovery. Now, the disease strategy drives therapeutics modality.

WYE has backed this up with a $3 billion investment in bioprocess innovation.

Silver platter

WYE (Madison, N.J.), which took its current name in 2002 following three mergers, essentially inherited programs that resulted in six marketed biologic products in a five-year span from 1997-2001, including rights outside North America and a manufacturing contract for the blockbuster Enbrel etanercept.

One of the predecessor companies, American Home Products Corp., acquired a 60% stake in Genetics Institute Inc. in 1992 and bought the remainder (35%) in December 1996. GI brought three product families: bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs), hemophilia clotting factors and interleukin-11.

Neumega IL-11 was approved in 1997 to prevent chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia, and Benefix Factor IX was approved in 1997 to treat hemophilia B. ReFacto Factor

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