Bayer looks to Direvo's biological r&d skills to boost future pipeline

The Bayer Group plans to further expand r&d activities despite the current financial and economic crisis, said group chairman Werner Wenning, at the "Bayer's Perspective on Innovation 2008" press forum in Leverkusen last week.

Alexander Koreska and Nina Habrich at Direvo Biotech AG check the new sequence of movements for a high-throughput screening robot

The Bayer Group plans to further expand r&d activities despite the current financial and economic crisis, said group chairman Werner Wenning, at the "Bayer's Perspective on Innovation 2008" press forum in Leverkusen last week.

In 2008, the group's r&d budget was around e2.8 bn. "This represents the biggest r&d budget in Germany in the chemical and pharmaceutical sector - and amounts to about 5% of all research and development spending by German industry as a whole," said Wenning.

The group's healthcare division, Bayer Schering Pharma, currently markets both small molecules and biologics and is already among the world's 10 leading biologicals companies, but its strategy is to fuel biologics growth. "The company wants to see a third of its pipeline coming from biologics," said professor Hanno Wild, senior vice president of global drug discovery.

To do this the company plans to enrich mid-term pipeline through targeted licensing and acquisitions. It also plans to increase biologics research at its site in Wuppertal, which will focus on cancer, and in Berkeley, US, which will focus on haematology.

Meanwhile, the company has recently strengthened its technology platform for biologics through the acquisition in October of Cologne-based Direvo.

Direvo is a small company with 40 plus people, many of whom are experts in protein engineering. It has a novel platform technology that uses high throughput technologies for optimising biotherapeutics.

In particular, its highly miniaturised screening and automation system, using industrial robots, can screen more than 150,000 to 300,000 protein variants in a week. The platform has already been successfully applied to a wide range of proteins , including therapeutic antibodies and proteases that will be added to Bayer's pipeline.

Bayer plans to fully integrate Direvo into bayer Schering Pharma's global drug discovery organisation by the end of the first quarter of 2009 when it will become a centre for biologicals.

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