Top biotech executives differ on health care law
Mullen, who is leaving Biogen Idec in June, also predicted biotech companies will face a more difficult regulatory process in the United States. "The environment to launch new products... is going to be tougher, the pricing is going to be tougher, the probability (of drug approvals) is probably going to be more challenging," he said.
Henri Termeer, chief executive of Genzyme Corp. in Cambridge, said the new law has the potential to boost investment in biotechnology research through a 12-year data exclusivity provision that shields biotech drugs from generic competition. The bill also contains a therapeutic-research tax credit for biotech start-ups.
Unlike past pushes for health care overhaul that failed, "this particular set of discussions didn't focus on the cost of innovation," Termeer said. "It focused on the cost of access. In fact, you could say that innovation was somewhat talked about in a kind of benevolent way. There was support for the need to be able to take the risks that are necessary. This (Obama) administration is actually interested in innovation."
Termeer and Mullen spoke on a panel during the MassBio meeting at the Seaport World Trade Center in South Boston. The discussion was moderated by Deborah Dunshire, chief executive of Millennium Pharmaceuticals, another Cambridge biotechnology company that was bought by Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. for $8.8 billion in 2008.
Dunshire described her fellow chief executives as "battle-scarred" biotech veterans and noted that they face pressures from increasingly impatient investors. But during the 60-minute event -- which didn't allow for questions from the audience -- Genzyme's high-profile manufacturing problems at its Allston Landing plant and shareholder activist Carl C. Icahn's push for seats on the boards of both Genzyme and Biogen Idec weren't discussed.
Mullen took a parting shot at the US Food and Drug Administration, saying European regulators "frankly seem to be a little more balanced" in approving riskier new drugs. Citing what he said was the reluctance of biopharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments for cardiovascular diseases, the Biogen Idec chief said, "The FDA has made it almost impossible to develop anything in cardiovascular. What they ask for sounds very logical in headlines. It's just not doable."
FDA officials didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.