With its pipeline full of biotech drugs, Biogen Idec aims to meet the unmet needs of patients around the world. The biotech giant is focused on developing treatments in the areas of immunology and neurology. Its product roster includes best-selling Avonex, a popular drug for the treatment of relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS); Tysabri, a drug treatment for MS and Crohn's disease; Rituxan, a monoclonal antibody developed jointly with Genentech that treats non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis; and Fumaderm, a psoriasis drug marketed in Germany. Biogen Idec serves customers in more than 90 countries.
The company's top selling drug, Avonex, accounts for more than half of annual revenues. Avonex is marketed through Biogen Idec's direct sales force to specialist physicians and hospitals in North America, Europe, and select other countries around the globe. The firm started marketing the Avonex pen, a single-use autoinjector version of the drug for once-weekly dosing, in the EU and Canada in 2011. The device gained FDA approval for US marketing in early 2012.
The company also handles global marketing efforts for Tysabri; the drug was co-developed and marketed with partner Elan until 2013 when Biogen purchased full rights. Tysabri brings in about 20% of revenues -- despite the drug's troubled regulatory history. Sales were temporarily halted in 2005 after several patients died from a rare neurological condition. The companies were allowed to reintroduce the drug in 2006 (when it was also launched in Europe) under a strict risk management plan that insured sufficient doctor and patient education about risks and proper usage. Despite its side effects, the company continues to pursue additional uses for the drug.
Because Genentech handles sales and marketing duties for Rituxan, Biogen Idec's Rituxan sales (accounting for another 20% of revenues) are counted as "unconsolidated joint business." In addition to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis, Rituxan was approved by the FDA to treat leukemia in 2010 and follicular lymphoma and two forms of vasculitis in 2011.
Another partnership, this time with Acorda Therapeutics, proved successful in 2011 when Biogen Idec gained approval to sell MS treatment Fampyra in the European Union. Biogen Idec expanded the drug's reach when it launched Fampyra in Canada in early 2012. Acorda sells the drug as Ampyra in the US market.
In addition to gaining revenue from the development and sales of its products (both directly and through partnerships), Biogen Idec receives royalties on some patents it has licensed to other companies. For instance, The Medicines Company pays royalties on sales of anticoagulant Angiomax.
Biogen Idec's pipeline of drug candidates is focused on treatments for central nervous system ailments including Alzheimer's, MS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), hemophilia, neuropathic pain, and lupus. The company has collaborative development candidates with Genentech and other drugmakers, and it continuously looks to expand its pipeline through acquisitions and partnerships.
In 2011 the company partnered with Portola Pharmaceuticals on new lupus and rheumatoid arthritis treatments in a deal worth up to $550 million, and in 2012 Biogen Idec entered a collaboration worth up to $300 million with Isis Pharmaceuticals to partner on Isis' spinal muscular atrophy candidate. Also in 2012 Biogen Idec formed a collaborative research project to research thegenetic causes of ALS with a number of research institutions that aim to map the genomes of hundreds of ALS patients.
Branching out in a new direction, Biogen Idec entered a joint venture agreement with Samsung BioLogics in late 2011 with the goal of developing and selling biosimilars (generic biologic drugs). The venture, named Samsung Bioepis, was formally established in early 2012; construction was also started on a research and development center in Korea that year to serve as a headquarters for the venture.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2013 Biogen purchased full rights to Tysabri from partner Elan for some $3.3 billion. Following the transaction, the companies will no longer split profits from the sales of the drug.
In 2012 Biogen Idec expanded its immunology pipeline when it acquired biotech R&D firm Stromedix for $75 million in upfront cash, with additional contingent value payments of up to $490 million. Stromedix focuses on developing antibody therapies for conditions including fibrosis and organ failure.
In 2011 Biogen Idec moved to expand its direct commercial presence to about 30 countries (with hopes of bolstering international sales), by buying out long-time partner Dompé Group's shares in their joint ventures in Italy and Switzerland for an undisclosed price. It renamed the affiliate offices Biogen Idec Italia and Biogen Idec Switzerland.
In 2010 the company expanded its neurological pipeline by acquiring Panima Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Neurimmune, for $33 million (plus another $395 million in potential milestone payments).
Activist investor Carl Icahn held a minority stake in the company for several years and kept a watchful eye over his investment in Biogen Idec until he sold his shares in the firm in 2011. In 2007 he bullied the company to put itself up for sale, but no buyer came through. Then he began a series of proxy battles in an attempt to stack the board with his own nominees to gain further control. By 2010 he had secured three seats on the board, filled with his own representatives, and resumed talk of seeing Biogen Idec broken into parts and/or sold to a larger pharmaceutical company.
Ichan's persistence might have contributed to the retirement of Biogen Idec's long-time CEO James Mullen in mid-2010, with George Scangos (former CEO of Exelixis) stepping in as Mullen's replacement. Scangos implemented sharp changes in late 2010, launching a reorganization plan aimed at reducing operational costs and increasing efficiencies. The plan included a 13% workforce reduction and a streamlining of R&D programs to focus primarily on neurological disease. Biogen Idec halted or licensed out its oncology and cardiovascular development programs and consolidated a number of US sites. As a sign that he was pleased with Mullen's work, in early 2011 Icahn reduced his ownership stake and did not seek to gain control of more board seats; he sold his remaining interests in the firm in mid-2011.
Biogen Idec was formed out of the 2003 merger of IDEC Pharmaceuticals and Biogen.