I made a post several days ago, that discussed one of the surest successful business models is to be the best Fast Follower (BFF so to speak) in a market. I didn't say who I thought that might be - but I would give a nod toward Teva as having a good chance to claim the title.
However, in the same post, pioneers were also discussed briefly. Pioneers have it tougher in many respects as they can often be the ones to open up a market but then can lose out to the Fastest Follower coming from behind. Don't look back, someone might be gaining - as Satchel might say.
Nevertheless, Pioneers can also win and come to dominate the market as first in. Going wire to wire so to speak. With regard to the pioneer slot in the pharma world, I'm leaning toward Roche at this point. Not only did they have a reasonable pipeline themselves, they greatly solidified it with their acquisition of the final 44% of Genentech last year.
In March, Roche's CEO reviewed their pipeline for analysts. He detailed that Roche expects to launch as many as 6 new products by 2014 and may also file up to 35 line extensions on existing products. All of the 6 products were characterized as "best in class" or "first in class". Most continue to build on Roche's strong oncology position.
In yesterday's Seeking Alpha, Jason Chew wrote about Roche's focus toward personalized medicine (personalized oncology) and their relatively unique position as both a strong pharma/biopharmaceutical house and a diagnostics company. Currently, 20% of Roche's sales come from its diagnostics holdings. Roche used that strength in the past to combine a diagnostic test for the Her2 gene to target the patients who would most benefit from its blockbuster Herceptin (trastuzumab).
Now Roche appears to be using this same strategy with other drugs in development in its pipeline. Its B-RAF compound, PLX4032, is in pivotal trials for the treatment of melanoma patients. But not just any melanoma patients - Roche is able to target those 60% of melanoma patients with the V600E B-RAF mutation. It turned out in phase I trials that 70% of patients with V600E experienced tumor shrinkage when treated with PLX4032 while those without the mutation showed NO RESPONSE.
Soooo - Roche is working on launching both PLX4032 and the B-RAF V600E diagnostic test in tandem. This helps trial design, recruitment, and ultimately requires fewer patients in the trial. It fairly stacks the deck toward success of the trial as patients most likely to respond are the ones being treated. What a concept?
Roche is advancing its drug portfolio, its diagnostic portfolio and is entering the sphere of personalized medicine in big way. That sounds like a pioneer.
Posted by Bruce Lehr June 3rd 2010.