Biogen drops Alzheimer’s drug but ‘focus remains’ on neuroscience
The company released its first quarter financials, after the collapse of its Phase III trials into investigational Alzheimer’s disease treatment, aducanumab, and its revenues beat analysts’ estimates.
First quarter revenues were up by 11% compared to the previous year, which was driven by the growth of its spinal muscular atrophy treatment, Spinraza (nusinersen).
Sales of Spinraza climbed to $518m (€465m) in Q1, a rise of $154m from the previous year.
However, at the time of writing, Biogen’s share price is down 2.5% and approximately $100 per share lower than when compared to the period prior to the clinical failure of aducanumab.
CEO of Biogen, Michel Vounatsos, addressed the failure of the drug during an investor call, saying, “The results for aducanumab are a terrible disappointment for the patients and families desperately hoping for a scientific breakthrough.”
He continued, “Our scientists, researchers, medical professionals, and as humans, we share this disappointment. We followed the science and the outcome was not as we hoped, but we followed the science.”
The company also used the first quarter financials to reveal that it would, for the time being, no longer pursue clinical trials into the treatment – dropping a planned Phase III secondary prevention study into whether early use of the investigational treatment could prevent or delay the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s.
As a result of the decision, Biogen stated that it would reduce its operating expenses by $125m, cutting the company’s R&D expenditure by approximately 5%.
Retaining focus on neuroscience
Despite the failure of aducanumab, Biogen used its Q1 financials to reiterate that it will not be backing out of the neuroscience space, CEO of Biogen, Michel Vounatsos, said, “The core of our focus remains, and will remain, neuroscience.”
Biogen retains both elenbecestat and BAN2401 in its pipeline, both of which are targeting Alzheimer’s disease and are in Phase III and Phase II trials, respectively.
Vounatsos confirmed that the company will still look at developing the investigation drugs further: “We are analysing the results from the Phase III studies of aducanumab and the Phase II study of BAN2401. The learnings from these data will inform our view of the development of BAN2401 and elenbecestat.”
Further than these drug candidates, it also several additional early-stage candidates for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease – both notoriously difficult to treat, with the former seeing a number of treatments hit the rocks during clinical trials.