Last year, former GSK oncology head Christine Roth took on the challenge of leading the oncology group at German pharma giant Bayer. Her task—to push the company further into the lucrative market—has been bolstered by prostate cancer drug Nubeqa’s second approval and a subsequent sales boost.
Her next mission—to lead the program to $10 billion in sales by 2030—is even more ambitious.
2022 was an “extraordinary ride,” Roth said of her first 10 months at Bayer. Nubeqa’s August FDA nod in metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer pushed the company to raise the drug's peak sales estimate from more than 1 billion euros to more than 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion).
To keep up the momentum into 2023, Bayer will continue to capture market share in its approved indications and work on overseas approvals, Roth said in a recent interview.
Nubeqa and Xofigo, a radiotherapy medicine for prostate cancer, make up a “very strong” foundation for Bayer in prostate cancer, Roth said. Both will have developments to watch in 2023. Nubeqa is set to widen its reach with potential label expansions in Europe, Japan and China. Meanwhile, Xofigo is being studied to support a potential new indication in castration-resistant prostate cancer patients whose disease has spread to their bones.
This year and beyond, some of Bayer's previous oncology plays should begin to bear fruit. Vividion Therapeutics, which Bayer purchased for $1.5 billion in 2021 to go after “undruggable” targets, recently partnered with Tavros Therapeutics to go after four cancer targets. For that deal, Vividion shelled out $17.5 million in cash with potentially up to $430.5 million to follow. Should phase 1 studies prove promising, Bayer is prepared to “accelerate the delivery” of those assets, Roth said.
Roth is also enthusiastic about cell and gene therapy. In that field, Bayer purchased BlueRock Therapeutics back in 2019. Bayer's oncology group has “not yet tapped into" the platform, but it is “fully prepared” to apply it to cancer research, Roth said.
In all, Bayer wants to deliver $30 billion in pharmaceutical sales by 2030, with oncology generating a third of the total. To reach that $10 billion goal and grow its cancer portfolio, Bayer is putting a “disproportionate amount” of the company’s R&D investments into oncology, Roth said.
Roth plans to grow Bayer's oncology business by combing through the portfolio to find programs with the “greatest promise and potential” to improve standard of care for patients. The company will focus on prostate cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and gastrointestinal and urogenital diseases, she added.
“The name of the game for Bayer oncology moving forward, as we move towards that aspiration of hitting $10 billion of sales, is going to be a combination of optimizing our inline assets and their lifecycle management,” Roth said.
Overall, Bayer's pharmaceuticals business generated 14.4 billion euros in the first nine months of 2022. Cancer drug Nubeqa generated 308 million euros of the total, a 105% increase from the same period in 2021.