Sucampo will focus on drug development as CEO announces new strategic plan for firm

Bethesda-based Sucampo Pharmaceuticals will focus on developing new treatments for diseases that the biotechnology company then turns over to business partners to market and sell on its behalf, according to a strategic plan slated to be announced Tuesday.

The company’s decision to shift its resources almost exclusively to drug development comes after a roughly five-month review of its goals following the selection of former MedImmune president Peter Greenleaf as the company’s new chief executive in March.

The move is also indicative of an ongoing trend in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries in which more companies are deciding to either develop new drugs or sell them, rather than trying to do both. This is in part because small companies often don’t have the financial means to manufacture and market drugs they develop, and large companies with sophisticated sales operations find it cheaper to acquire new drugs than develop their own.

Greenleaf said the company plans to license or outright sell its medication called Rescula, which reduces pressure inside the eyes of glaucoma patients. It’s one of two Food and Drug Administration approved drugs Sucampo has on the market, and researchers will continue to explore when it could be used to fight other eye-related ailments.

Sucampo will instead put most of its attention on another FDA-approved medication, a therapeutic called Amitiza that treats chronic constipation. Greenleaf said Sucampo expects sales of the drug to continue to increase in the United States and Japan, and it has plans to introduce the drug to Europe pending regulatory approval.


Peter Greenleaf is the CEO of Sucampo Pharmaceuticals. (Photo courtesy of Jon Chomitz)

Prescriptions of Amitiza were up 4.3 percent during the second quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2013. Sales of the drug increased year-over-year by double digits in the second quarter, according to a news release.

“We need to focus the resources of the organization differently,” Greenleaf said. “Historically we took on too many battles on too many fronts.”

Sucampo also posted earnings for the second quarter on Tuesday. It collected net income of $1.6 million, or 4 cents per share, compared to $6.2 million, or 15 cents per share, during the same period last year. Last year’s numbers are skewed, however, by a one-time infusion of $10 million during the quarter, Greenleaf said.

Revenue for the second quarter tallied $24.1 million, down 11 percent from $27 million during the same three-month stretch last year.

Key to Sucampo’s future growth, Greenleaf said, will be the addition of new drugs to its pipeline through both internal development and acquisition. The company had $103.6 million in cash on its balance sheet and debt of $49.5 million at the end of the quarter. That gives executives money to spend when they’re ready to buy.

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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