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12:00 AM
 | 
Dec 21, 2009
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Eisai Inspired to Morph

With more than a decade gone by without a homegrown NME reaching the market, Eisai Co. Ltd. decided early in 2008 that it needed to make some drastic changes. Inspired by its recently acquired Morphotek Inc. subsidiary, in July this year the pharma created 13 smaller units to speed product creation by eliminating layers of bureaucracy and increasing communication.

The company's last internally discovered NMEs to gain approval were Aricept donepezil for Alzheimer's disease in 1996 and Pariet (US-AcipHex) rabeprazole for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in 1997.

For the fiscal year ended March 31, Eisai had Y781.7 billion ($8 billion) in sales, Y761.2 billion ($7.8 billion) of which came from pharmaceuticals. Almost 60% of that came from Aricept and Pariet/AcipHex, which had Y303.8 billion ($3.1 billion) and Y159.9 billion ($1.6 billion) in sales, respectively.

Its next biggest products are two cancer drugs Eisai received when it acquired MGI Pharma Inc. for $3.9 billion in cash in February 2008: the anti-emetic Aloxi palonosetron had Y36.5 billion ($370 million) in sales, and DNA methylating agent Dacogen decitabine had Y15.1 billion ($150 million) in sales. Hideki Hayashi, SVP and chief product creation officer, told BioCentury the majority of the remaining sales come from in-house products.

According to Hayashi, the problem in getting internally discovered NMEs to market was the lack of speed in decision-making, not the company's ability to discover new targets and NMEs. Indeed, he said, the company has several in-house NMEs that it believes are likely to reach market in the next few years.

"Simply, if the organization was more flexible, we might have gotten the NMEs to market several years earlier," Hayashi said.

Traditional constraints

The company's old discovery unit was structured as a traditional pyramid, with many layers of management between the department head and the researchers doing the actual work,...

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