Actelion: A Model for European Biotech
Actelion reached profitability in record time by focusing from the start on the development and commercial end of the business. It in-licensed an unusually late-stage pipeline made up of compounds its founders helped develop, and built its own global sales and marketing infrastructure to maximize the value of its projects. Now Actelion plans to leverage growing profits to go back and nurture earlier stage research-a top-down biotech-building model that may prove inspirational to others.
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Actelion has become Europe's most successful R&D-based biotech largely on the success of Tracleer for PAH, a specialist indication. Now, facing competition in PAH, but in line with its strategy of following innovation wherever it leads, the company's starting to build a primary care-focused commercial operation to support GP-targeted pipeline assets. That takes Actelion into a very new game, and risks destroying the laissez-faire culture seen as crucial to its unusually high R&D productivity. But Actelion reckons a well-planned, step-wise, and nimble approach to primary care marketing will allow it to retain both the maximum value from its drugs, and its biotech-ness.
An analysis of a group of Big Pharma and big biotech spin-outs, which tend to raise more private money than their build-from-scratch bretheren, shows that while these firms are certainly heftier--and often considered better equiped to succeed in the public markets--their pre-money step-ups are in the end, nothing special.