What is Biogen and can they repair their reputation?

SUMMARY: If I were to ask you, “what type of company is Biogen?” what would be your response? I tried asking that of several colleagues in the industry, and they couldn’t come up with an answer. Biogen has lost its way and is in desperate need of a corporate rebranding.

This week two colleagues, who worked at Biogen, left the company because they knew that the ax was coming after the failure of Aduhelm. More importantly, they felt the company should never have launched Aduhelm.

Biogen is in trouble. Physicians and insurers are rejecting Aduhelm because it should never have been approved in the first place. This drug was never about patients; it was about a company whose ego got too big and needed a savior in the form of a medicine that could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars.

I remember when Biogen was an exciting new biotech based in Westin. They had a new MS drug that was the talk of the industry and an exciting pipeline. Then they decided to move their HQ to an expensive campus in downtown Cambridge to play with “big pharma”. Along with the move came new competitors and MS patients who reported that other MS drugs were better.

After an unstable period, they lost their CEO and some very good people who decided to abandon ship.

Then, against the advisory panel’s advice, Aduhelm was approved, but insiders within the industry criticized both the FDA and Biogen weren’t sold on the drug or its price tag. Many doctors also became upset at the idea of telling Alzheimer’s patients that the drug didn’t work.

Now comes word that Aduhelm is such a disappointment Biogen may have to cut staff and other expenses. Thank health care professionals and insurers for not drinking any of Biogen’s Kool-Aid.

Can Biogen regain its momentum? Yes, but changes need to be made:

1ne: The CEO needs to be replaced. He has zero credibility with the HCP community.

2wo: The new CEO needs to withdraw Aduhelm from the market until such a time that they have independent data that confirms efficacy.

3hree: Top executives who supported the launch need to be shown the exit.

4our: Biogen needs to decide “who they are”. Are they a big pharma company that competes in several areas or biotech that develops drugs for specific markets?

It’s not going to be easy to undo the damage the launch of Aduhelm has done. Many now realize that it was about the money, not the drug, and reputations are easy to lose and hard to win back.