Crucell (CRXL), the Dutch vaccine maker, will bolster its research and development spending in 2010 by more than one third, or about $32 million, even as many of its peers are cutting back and outsourcing R&D efforts, the company says. The new investment will be aimed at speeding up R&D productivity and accelerating and expanding product development.
The company spent about $96 million on R&D in 2009 (€70.2 million), with which it added 120 new R&D employees, mostly based in Leiden and Bern, where they have been put to work in new process development laboratories. Crucell will use those laboratories to do the necessary work to get FDA approval for Epaxal, the only aluminum-free hepatitis A vaccine on the market, it says.
Crucell has so much cash flow to devote to research in large part due to two key partnerships, based on its invention of a method to treat and prevent all strains of influenza with antibodies. That discovery yielded a $69 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for the novel influenza antibody research in August 2009. In September, that research also helped Crucell land a major research and development partnership with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), potentially worth up to $1 billion.
With all that cash on the books, Crucell could simply buy up promising new companies instead of expanding its own research efforts, but that's not necessarily in the cards, says Crucell CEO Ronald Brus.
“We do have a very magnificent balance sheet that we could if we want to use for acquisitions," says Brus. “We're not looking for acquisitions to fill our pipeline because I think our pipeline has never been as full as it is today.”
Nonetheless, when pressed by reporters, Brus allowed that the company might find reason to snap up a company with enough potential.
“If we would make an acquisition, it would be of a profitable product or products that are very close to being launched on the market rather than a pipeline product,” he says.