ZURICH, May 12 (Reuters) - Roche Holding AG has
enough in its drug development pipeline to make up for the
recent setback of its keenly-watched experimental cancer drug,
Chairman Christoph Franz said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Swiss drugmaker's stock had its worst day
since March 2020, after an interim analysis of an ongoing
clinical trial showed its drug, tiragolumab, failed to
meaningfully slow disease progression in patients with the most
common form of lung cancer.
It was the second tiragolumab trial that fell short of
"There are always setbacks, we are used to that. We of
course had growth expectations, which have for now been
disappointed," said Franz, who heads the family-controlled
company's board of directors.
The advantage of a company the size of Roche is that there
are several late-stage trials that the company is also banking
on to enrich its growth prospects, he suggested.
One particularly high-risk, high reward prospect in the
company's arsenal is its experimental Alzheimer's drug,
gantenerumab. Franz sought to temper expectations that trial
results for gantenerumab, expected later this year, would make
up for this week's disappointment.
The field targeting the memory-robbing disease - which
affects millions of people globally - is littered with high
Adoption of the first new Alzheimer's treatment in nearly 20
years, made by rival U.S. drugmaker Biogen Inc,
spectacularly underwhelmed after the U.S. health regulator green
lit the treatment without clear evidence of patient benefit,
driven in part by the lack of options for the fatal mind-wasting
"Everyone knows Alzheimer's research is a very risky type of
research," Franz said.
Roche is hoping that its blood cancer drug, glofitamab, will
bolster growth prospects alongside a growing demand for its
other prime focus - diagnostics.
The world's biggest cancer drug maker is poised to pioneer
the use of mass spectrometry in healthcare diagnostics, a method
so far only used in research.
"Many of our competitors probably balk at the investment,"
Others investments can come in the form of deals. Franz
suggested the company remains open to acquiring assets to
Drugmakers often go shopping to reinvigorate their
pipelines, and the recent downturn in the biotech sector means
M&A targets that were once considered too expensive are now
Roche has about $16 billion in its coffers, according to a
note from Jefferies analysts earlier this month.
"Over the last few years we were confronted with market
prices that did not leave any room for commercial viability,"
Franz said of acquiring drugs from others through deals or
"If prices are now becoming more attractive, that could also
affect our interest."
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger and additional reporting by Natalie
Grover in London; Editing by David Evans, Lisa Shumaker and Bill