Biogen CEO Highlights Neuroscience Innovation Forum

April 30, 2015
Casey McDonald

Casey McDonald is Senior Editor, Pharmaceutical Executive.

Pricing and Sovaldi couldn’t avoid mention at this week’s World Medical Innovation Forum put on by Partners Healthcare in Boston. The meeting highlighted multiple issues in neuroscience but also touched on hot buttons across the industry.

Pricing and Sovaldi couldn’t avoid mention at this week’s World Medical Innovation Forum put on by Partners Healthcare in Boston. The meeting highlighted multiple issues in neuroscience but also touched on hot buttons across the industry.
 
Talking Sovaldi, Biogen’s CEO George Scangos, said that the development of the drug was well done, but introduction left much to be desired. The way the HepC treatment was launched proved problematic as a huge bolus of patients hit an unprepared system. Drug makers will have to learn from this experience and be more thoughtful in the future, especially for a disease with the potential impact that an Alzheimer’s treatment could have.
 
"If we're not thoughtful about it, it will make Sovaldi look like a blip," according to Scangos.

"If we're not thoughtful about it, it will make Sovaldi look like a blip," $BIIB CEO says of Alz drug pricing at #WMIF15

- Meg Tirrell (@megtirrell) April 28, 2015

Devo for nerves

How drug development proceeds for disorders of the nervous system was a major talking point for the forum. Psychiatric disorders have seen little progress for the last several decades as companies tried hard to direct the efforts at single targets. After serendipity of early treatments, which are still mainstays, and much failure since, a more nuanced, multitargeted approach will be necessary, experts reiterated. But disorders like schizophrenia suffer from funding, and as a panel of investment experts pointed out, understanding of basic mechanisms is lacking.
 
But more generally, the neuroscience experts were keen to point to the impact genetic research has had on drug targeting for de-risking drug development across pharma’s pipelines. Amgen’s EVP, Research and Development, Sean Harper pointed out that this was certainly the case for major drugs in its pipeline.

Re: sclerostin and PCSK9, confident $5-6bn investment for Amgen, remove the genetic evidence, risk would be huge - Sean Harper #WMIF15

- Pharm Exec Magazine (@PharmExecutive) April 27, 2015

 
Besides genetic routes, companies continue to rely on other means for drug research, not just human genetics, serendipity continues to play role, noted Amgen’s CEO Robert Bradway.

Continue to rely on other means for drug research, not just human genetics, serendipity continues to play role $AMGN CEO Bradway #WMIF15

- Pharm Exec Magazine (@PharmExecutive) April 28, 2015

 
Nerves and mobile
Mobile devices for acquiring data was a recurring theme. An untended consequence of people carrying around iPhones is that they may become the most important sources of data, said Scott Rauch, President and Psychiatrist in Chief, McLean Hospital. For measuring the way we live our lives, cell phones can offer a key source of data, a cheap way to gauge interaction.
 
Telling the crowd their iPhones are junk (or will be soon) was the conference’s most exciting character, DARPA’s Director, Defense Sciences Office, Geoffrey Ling. Playing the role of provacative prognisticator in a panel that promised diruptions in neurocare of the future, Ling promised that phones would go away as we interact with greater tools.

Ling wore his optimism for brain/tech interfacing on his sleave. Today's kids can look forward to 125 years of life, and much of that will be good quality - skiing and jogging into their 90s or 100s, he predicted.

Brain-machine interface is the next greatest advancement, says Geoffrey Ling of @DARPA-example: cognitively-controlled prosthetics #WMIF15

- World Forum (@PartnersWMIF) April 27, 2015

Brain-Machine interface is inevitable in next 10 years! Dr. Geoffrey Ling @DARPA our body constrains data flow into the brain #WMIF15

- Nikhil Bhojwani (@bnikhil) April 27, 2015

Dr. Geoffrey Ling of @DARPA "The brain-machine interface is something to be embraced.” @PartnersWMIF#WMIF15

- MedTech Boston (@MedTechBoston) April 27, 2015

 

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