many of these firm’s R&D successes have actually been “derivative” products based on approaches that were already known to work. Celgene’s success has come through drugs derived from its original success, repurposing thalidomide as a treatment for multiple myeloma and from Abraxane, an improved version of the 1990s cancer drug Taxol. Biogen’s big hit, Tecfidera for multiple sclerosis, is a new formulation of a drug that had been used to treat psoriasis in Germany. Porges points out that Celgene is now betting on a new first-in-class molecule, sotatercept. And Biogen’s big event this year will be data for its anti-LINGO program, which is a brand new way to treat multiple sclerosis. He says Alexion and Vertex are likely facing longer odds than they have in the past. Drug research: it’s really, really hard.
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