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January 15, 2007
Novo Nordisk Axes Med-Chem
Here's one that I didn't see coming: Denmark's Novo Nordisk, a longtime major player in the field of diabetes, has decided to cut its small-molecule research completely. They're focusing on peptides and proteins instead. In a time when the big protein-based biotech companies (Amgen and Genentech) are trying to expand their small-molecule capabilities, Novo has decided to break the other way.
That Reuters article has various analysts talking about how this is no big surprise, that NN has never been that big in small molecules, etc. But I had a different impression. The company seemed to have a pretty good presence in many areas of diabetes research. If there was a good target to work on, you could generally count on them being in there, and they showed up in some of the less-trodden areas as well. Their patent and publication stream always looked quite strong, too.
Whether this is a trend, or the beginning of a trend, is a good question. I'm not at all convinced that it's cheaper to do protein therapies as opposed to small molecules (and it's not that I've heard anyone from Novo Nordisk making that argument, either). They must have seen more opportunities in their own biologics pipeline, and not had enough money to realize them if they kept working on the organic chemistry side of things. I'm not sure that this is a good long-term strategy, but they might be figuring that if they don't cut costs somewhere, there's not going to be a long term. So this might be specific to NN, or to companies of their size and financial standing. We shall see. . .
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