The company's board approved a 2005 R&D budget for the group of €480 million ahead of the New Year, an increase of 58.9 per cent on 2004's €302 million. The new figure includes a €58 million tranche allocated to surface specialties.
However, given that, in 2004, the actual R&D expenses of UCB Pharma were estimated at €260 million, and those of Celltech at €184 million, the actual hike is just 8.1 per cent.
UCB has transformed itself over the last few years, progressing inexorably towards becoming a pharmaceutical pure-play by shedding various chemicals units. The company embarked on the path towards metamorphosis back in 2002 with its acquisition of speciality chemicals business Solutia for $500 million, splitting the group's sales evenly between chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and setting it up to make a big pharma acquisition.
The Belgian firm has already restructured its R&D operations following the Celltech acquisition, creating research centres in Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium, and in Slough and Cambridge, UK.
The group has also closed its research facility in Boston, US, which employed 86 people. Small-molecule research carried out at the Boston site, primarily central nervous system pharmacology, inflammation and immunology activities, has been shifted to the Braine-l'Alleud and Cambridge facilities.
UCB says that its main R&D budget for 2005 will be allocated to finalising the development of CDP 870 (certolizumab pegol: an anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) antibody in trials for Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis) and to fund additional studies of its anti-epilepsy drug Keppra (levetiracetam) to support new uses and the development of follow-up agents. One aim will be to develop an intravenous form of the drug, making it the first epilepsy treatment to be suitable for emergency room treatment.
Other priority projects at the company include: CDP 323, an alpha4 integrin antagonist for inflammation; CDP 791, and anti-GFR antibody fragment for cancer; and CDP 484, an anti-interluekin-1 beta fragment for inflammatory disease.