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The biotech industry is at a crossroads. Innovation may be challenged by new policy and industry pressures, making partnerships and acquisitions more critical in the drive to drug discovery. Here, both the CEO of Servier and Global Head of Business Development of Servier detail the company’s aspirations and how it is succeeding in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) despite a challenging landscape.

[Q] What are your thoughts on the lack of M&A opportunities in the last year, and what types of deals and partnerships are of most interest to Servier in the current economic environment?

[A] Eric Falcand, Global Head of Business Development: Servier has been active in M&A in pursuit of smart science. Since the U.S. launch and following the acquisition of Shire oncology, we’ve accelerated our progress in oncology through key acquisitions, collaborations and partnerships, and long-term investments in core research areas. Our 2021 acquisition of Agios oncology is an excellent example. This investment strengthened our portfolio and pipeline in malignant hematology and solid tumors, expediting our ability to drive scientific advancements for people living with hard-to-treat cancers.

To fuel our growth and 2030 ambition, we’ll continue acquiring or licensing late-stage assets to enrich our portfolio in small targeted populations where the unmet medical and patient need is high and where we can make an impact. We’re also willing to accept risk to enrich our pipeline with research and early-stage development assets in oncology and selected neuroscience or immune-inflammatory diseases.

Despite many across the industry experiencing external pressures through the bear market, we maintain our focus on smart science and remain open for business.

[Q] Why the focus on rare cancers and the IDH mutation?

[A] David K. Lee, CEO: Servier has been pioneering the exploration of the significant potential of mutant IDH enzymes, present in a type of genetic mutation detected in certain cancers with high unmet needs. These include cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile ducts that 8,000 Americans are diagnosed with annually, of which 20% have IDH1 mutations; acute myeloid leukemia (AML), characterized by rapid disease progression in older U.S. adults, of which about 6-10 percent have IDH1 mutations present, impacts 20,000 newly-diagnosed Americans annually; and glioma, a cancerous brain tumor impacting 13,000 U.S. patients, of which 80% have an IDH1 mutation. Given the toxicities associated with chemotherapy and radiation, there remains a significant unmet need to improve treatment options via targeted therapies. We will continue leading the scientific research behind IDH mutations and look forward to sharing new data across our pipeline as it becomes available.

[Q] You have pledged to launch one new cancer drug or indication each year across the next five years. How can you be confident you’ll achieve this goal?

[A] Lee: In addition to investing more than 50% of our R&D budget back into the oncology pipeline, we have a highly talented and driven R&D team at Servier. In July 2022, a new Global R&D center in Boston’s Seaport Innovation District was opened and already houses six projects from early discovery research and target identification, supporting the further clinical development of our marketed products. The Servier R&D Institute in Paris-Saclay will open in February 2023, and there’s existing R&D infrastructure in France, Denmark, and Hungary. In parallel, we continuously evaluate highly synergistic acquisition and partnership opportunities to support our growth and bring more therapies to market for patients.

The data we’ve seen across our IDH portfolio provides a high level of confidence in our ability to translate this research into first-to-market treatments for the patients relying on us.

[Q] As we’ve seen biotech company valuations drop, what does being a private company governed by a non-profit foundation enable Servier to do?

[A] Falcand: Because we’re governed by a non-profit, we have no obligation to shareholders and focus on our long-term vision of transforming the treatment of hard-to-treat cancers. We follow the science and invest without the constant pressure of achieving short-term results. This freedom enables us to pursue projects from previous acquisitions that we have confidence in that might otherwise seem unviable given the small patient populations, or because complex levels of innovation require long term planning or high level investments to bring to market. We take risks and move beyond disease areas that already have options, and instead focus on high unmet needs.

[Q] What are you doing to solidify your presence in the U.S.?

[A] Lee: Being a leader requires investments in smart science and smart people, both internally and with external partners. We have made those investments historically, whether that be the acquisitions of Shire and Agios’ oncology businesses, the 40+ active partnerships and collaborations we have ongoing or the establishment of our new Boston-based R&D center. We are furthering the assets across our pipeline, pioneering IDH research and look forward to seeking out additional deals and partnerships at the 41st annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.


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