Meet Baxalta, the pharma spinoff Baxter plans to unleash in 2015

Ludwig Hantson

When Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) told the world that its spun-off pharma business would bear the AbbVie ($ABBV) moniker, there were the usual marketing-speak explanations. Includes the name of its former parent. Adds a syllable that evokes a particular-and-desirable image--in AbbVie's case, life itself.

Apparently, Baxter International ($BAX) liked that approach. The Chicago-based healthcare company says it's calling its pharma spinoff-to-be Baxalta.

Name of the soon-former parent, check. Add-on that evokes a desirable image? Alta is a derivative of the Latin word for "high" or "profound," the company says.

The new name "celebrates and sustains Baxter's heritage as an innovator with a legacy of leadership," said Ludwig Hantson, who'll be taking the helm of the new $6 billion company.

Baxter believes that setting its pharma business free will allow Hantson and his team to choose their own projects and make their own investment decisions. It won't be easy, though, with new competition for key drugs popping up.

Baxter's drug business is fairly tightly focused, with concentrations in bleeding disorders and immunology (though it's expanding into oncology and gene therapy). Its biggest drug is Advate, a $1.8 billion hemophilia A treatment that's under siege by newcomers from Novo Nordisk ($NVO) and Biogen Idec ($BIIB). Even Baxter's newly minted Rixubis, a hemophilia B treatment, is under threat, also by a Biogen drug. More than half of its biopharma sales could soon be in jeopardy, media reports have said.

So, Baxter is racing to win FDA approval for a long-acting hemophilia A treatment that can go head-to-head with Eloctate. It added more long-acting treatments to its pipeline in July with the purchase of AesRx, which also came with a sickle cell anemia product. And it's working to capitalize on patient loyalty to keep sales of its older products coming.

That's strategy that just might work to tide Baxalta over to its own next-gen drugs, analysts have said. Patients "may opt for convenience one day, but what they'll do over the next few years can be different," Piper Jaffray's Matt Miksic said earlier this year.

- see the release from Baxter