Biogen CEO bets on Alzheimer’s drug, pipeline to return to growth

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Biogen CEO bets on Alzheimer’s drug, pipeline to return to growth

By as Mishra

Feb 15 (Reuters) – Biogen Inc. (BIIB.O) Chief Executive Officer Christopher Viehbacher said on Wednesday he is banking on high-profile launches of Alzheimer’s disease treatment Leqembi and depression drug zuranolone, as well as deals, to help the company return to revenue growth.

Industry veteran Viehbacher joined the U.S. biotech in November, at a time when sales have been hit by competition for top-selling drugs such as Tecfidera for multiple sclerosis and Spinraza for spinal muscular atrophy.

A controversial approval and problematic launch of previous Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm, which like Leqembi was developed with Eisai Co. Ltd. (4523.T), have further dented investor sentiment.

“Over the last couple of years, the company has lost its way somewhat and now it is in a declining revenue situation,” Viehbacher told reporters at a briefing.

“So the first order of the day is really to restore the growth of the company.”

Biogen shares were off about 4% at $277.10 in morning trading.

Biogen sales are expected to decline by mid-single digit percentages in 2023 after they fell nearly 7% to $2.54 billion in the fourth quarter.

The company expects full U.S. approval for Leqembi by summer or late this year, and possibly broader insurance coverage by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services thereafter.

It said costs related to the drug’s launch are likely to offset “modest” sales this year.

Biogen is also hoping to gain U.S. approval of depression treatment zuranolone this year.

The company will also seek to bolster its newer franchises of psychiatry, immunology and rare diseases through deals and partnerships, the new CEO said, and will be looking to cut costs.

“I tell people well, there wasn’t a lot of point hiring me if you don’t want to go do deals,” Viehbacher, a former Sanofi CEO who was instrumental in the company’s $20 billion deal for Genzyme in 2011, told analysts.

“I think there is now an openness within the company to at least look at (deals) now.”

Biogen forecast full-year adjusted profit of $15 to $16 per share, compared with analysts’ estimates of $15.72 per share.

Fourth-quarter revenue fell, partly hit by a slump in Tecfidera sales, but nevertheless topped analysts’ estimates of $2.44 billion.

Sales of Spinraza rose 4.1% to $458.8 million, above Wall Street estimates of $425.1 million.

The company reported a fourth-quarter adjusted profit of $4.05 per share, beating estimates compiled by Refinitiv IBES by 57 cents.

Reporting by Manas Mishra and Sriparna Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters