Exclusive: Biogen shortens name, expands ambitions in Alzheimer's, ALS

Mon Mar 23, 2015 11:48am EDT
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By Bill Berkrot

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Biogen Idec Inc has seen its market value quadruple in three years to more than $100 billion on the back of its successful multiple sclerosis drugs. Now it has new ambitions in its sights.

The Massachusetts-based company, which made headlines last week when it announced better-than-expected clinical trial results for its experimental Alzheimer's drug, aducanumab, said that it will drop Idec from its name as of Monday and adopt a new logo. The company merged with Idec Pharmaceuticals more than a decade ago.

Chief Executive George Scangos says that going forward he will keep Biogen focused on developing drugs for some of the hardest-to-treat diseases.

"Five years down the road, with some luck, we'll have an Alzheimer's drug that's getting approved,” Scangos told Reuters. "I hope we can transform the treatment of MS. By that time, we will have made substantial progress on ALS and other nerve degenerative diseases, spinal muscular atrophy in kids. All that stuff is on our plate," he said.

"I am sure of two things," he added. "Not all of it is going to work, and some of it will."

Investors, excited by the aducanumab news, sent Biogen shares up 9.7 percent on Friday, and the company's stock touched an all-time high of $480.18 during the session.

The small trial showed the treatment significantly slowed cognitive impairment in patients with mild symptoms, a rare bit of good news in a field littered with high profile failures from the likes of Pfizer Inc and Eli Lilly and Co

But some patients, especially those with a gene predisposing them to Alzheimer's, developed localized brain swelling. The symptom was most common among patients with the gene who were receiving the highest doses of aducanumab, leading about 1/3 of the participants in that category to discontinue the treatment. The company said the swelling was generally "asymptomatic or with mild, transient symptoms."   Continued...

George Scangos, CEO of Biogen Inc. speaks during the Reuters Health Summit in New York, May 10, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar