Biogen Idec, Inc. is a biotechnology company specializing in drugs for neurological disorders, autoimmune disorders and cancer. The company was formed in 2003 by the merger of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Biogen and San Diego, California-based Idec Pharmaceuticals. Biogen, one of the oldest biotechnology companies was founded in 1978 by several biologists including Phillip Sharp of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Walter Gilbert of Harvard (who served as CEO during the start-up phase).
Biogen Idec maintains its international headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, and operates an International regulatory & clinical center of excellence in Maidenhead, UK. In Europe, Biogen Idec has direct commercial affiliates in Germany, France, Spain/Portugal, UK/Ireland, the Benelux, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Austria. In Italy and in Switzerland, Biogen Idec markets its products through two joint venture companies set up with the privately held Italian company Dompe Biotec. Biogen Idec also has offices in Canada, Australia, India, and Japan.
As of 2004, Biogen Idec derives most of its income from sales of multiple sclerosis treatment Avonex and from partnership royalties on Rituxan from Genentech, which markets Rituxan in the US. Roche markets Rituxan outside the US as MabThera.
Investor Carl Icahn launched a proxy fight seeking to elect three of his own nominees to the Biogen Idec board at the company's June 19, 2008 annual meeting of shareholders. Icahn's nominees were Alexander J. Denner, Anne B. Young, and Richard C. Mulligan, all of whom had served on the board of ImClone Systems since Icahn took control of that company. None of Icahn's nominees were elected.
On February 28, 2005, Biogen Idec and marketing partner Elan Pharmaceuticals voluntarily suspended marketing of natalizumab, and also suspended dosing in all ongoing clinical trials. Natalizumab had been approved in the US in November 2004 for treatment of patients with relapsing remitting MS.
The two companies announced the suspension after two participants involved in one study were diagnosed with a severe brain condition, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), after two years of combination therapy with Biogen's version of interferon beta-1a. One of those two patients died. Subsequently, another patient who had previously died in a separate clinical trial of natalizumab in patients with Crohns disease was re-evaluated as having had PML. In total, 3 cases of PML were identified, of which 2 cases were fatal.
On 08/2008 the company announced 2 more cases of PML in Europe
Biogen Idec stock lost more than 40% of its value when the drug suspension news was released on February 28, 2005.