Roche CEO says company plans to maintain current R&D structure

Roche CEO Severin Schwan recently said that there is "no way" that the drugmaker would merge its Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) and Genentech Research and Early Development (gRED) divisions, despite seeking greater efficiencies in nearly all other parts of the company. In an interview with Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson, the chief executive noted that the distinct R&D structure has allowed Roche to build its current pipeline. Schwan indicated that if pRED and gRED were combined, the units would lose a lot of their culture and diversity of thinking, which ultimately would be very harmful for company innovation.

Schwan cited several new therapies, including Ocrevus (ocrelizumab)‎ for multiple sclerosis (MS) and Hemlibra (emicizumab-kxwh)‎ for haemophilia, which the company expects will help replace lost revenue due to impending patent expiry on older treatments such as Avastin (bevacizumab) and Rituxan (rituximab). The CEO suggested that Roche's late-stage pipeline has never been stronger, with some candidates having the potential to be transformative medicines. Referring to Ocrevus specifically, Schwan indicated that in less than a year, the therapy has gained more than 7 percent of the US market share in MS. 

However, Schwan cautioned that there are areas in which Roche could enhance productivity, such as data management. The executive stated that Roche is generating data sets sharing common systems across business units, thus boosting both efficiency and productivity. However, Roche added that the goal is to improve efficiency without reducing the independence of its three R&D hubs of gRED, pRED and Chugai.

The executive also suggested that costs could be cut in manufacturing, for which the company is currently rearranging its footprint, while he also indicated that intelligent trial design could improve both the efficiency and productivity of development. The CEO said such changes could influence the interactions with global regulators.



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