About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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January 15, 2007

Novo Nordisk Axes Med-Chem

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Posted by Derek

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. . .

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Drug Industry History


1. Morten on January 16, 2007 6:17 AM writes...

Well, Leo Pharma recently had their transgenic goats approved. That should bring down the price of recombinant protein production I think. Maybe that's what Novo is thinking.
Other than that I can't really think of any small molecule drugs from NN.
And size-wise you have to remember to include Novozymes as well.

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2. tom bartlett on January 16, 2007 8:56 AM writes...

My take on protein therapies-- and I've have the same opinion for nearly 20 years-- is that they can be terrific, but will never make up more than, say, 10-20% of the PDR. Small molecules have a lot going for them, and proteins, by their nature, need to be injectable and have a number of other thorny issues.

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3. Devices R Us on January 16, 2007 6:57 PM writes...

My take is that Novo might have been doing good chemistry but not making good oral drugs. They have only one (AFAIK) candidate in the clinic NN9101 and while they clearly are world class in the diabetes space, I am not sure they have ever been that good in the small molecule development, Prandin never really took off. On the other hand, they really do have the protein/peptide story down cold.

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4. SRC on January 16, 2007 8:51 PM writes...

Simplest explanation for the strategic disparity between Novo Nordisk and Amgen: stochastic management in action.

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5. Malapati. Ajay kumar on February 13, 2007 10:49 AM writes...

Dear sir,
I saw all ur personal and professional comments and interests. My hobbies and urs are very near. Thank god. I got u as a gift from got to good adviser about my career. I will be in contact with you forever.

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6. Ajay kumjar on February 13, 2007 11:10 AM writes...

I am very much interested in synthetic organic schemes as well as social service like planting, explaning consequences of rising population, clean and green. I think everybody should feel resposibility to maintain all these. I used to explain this as many people as I can.

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