Orion is planning to change and refocus the strategy of its R&D function. The company would invest in the research and development of new proprietary drugs in two therapy areas, cancer and pain. The company believes that by concentrating its resources, it would be able to develop new treatments for patients’ needs and gain the most effective return for its R&D efforts. It would also be the most effective way to support Orion's growth strategy. The possible changes planned would target the therapy and research areas in which Orion would no longer invest in the future. The company will start negotiations in accordance with the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings concerning these functions in Finland. Sales of the current product portfolio will continue unchanged. The refocus of the R&D areas and the reorganisation are expected to be completed by summer.
Orion’s R&D function is planning to refocus its efforts on the development of new proprietary products from several therapy areas to two, cancer diseases and pain. Cancer diseases have long been one of the three core therapy areas of Orion’s pharmaceutical research, and the company has announced success in many research projects in recent years. Darolutamide, a cancer therapy developed by Orion, is at the global launch stage in which Orion is collaborating with Bayer, and the positive results of the ARASENS study strengthen expectations for success. ODM-208 is another molecule developed by Orion for the treatment of prostate cancer that has also made positive progress in clinical studies.
For many years, Orion has also conducted R&D projects associated with pain management in the therapy area of neurological diseases. Pain is one of the most common reasons for seeking medical attention and is a significant burden on society because it drains healthcare resources and results in productivity losses. Hence there is great demand for new effective and safe treatment alternatives that do not cause dependence. At the present, many Orion’s late-stage discovery projects deal with pain. Orion is also currently seeking a partner to assist in the further development and commercialisation of a software solution for digital therapy for the treatment of chronic pain.
“Research in cancer diseases and pain management are very active fields where a lot of good results are being produced. There is still much to be achieved in these fields from the point of view of patients. With the planned changes, we want to concentrate investment in research and development on proprietary drugs in these therapy areas. Oncology is already well represented in our development projects. We have promising new research projects for pain management and we expect to proceed to clinical trials within the next twelve months. We have also worked hard to identify new opportunities for cooperation in pain management. The idea is to focus investment in these areas and to develop treatments for patients as efficiently as possible, rather than making smaller investments in a larger number of research areas. This is also the most effective way to support Orion’s growth strategy,” says Outi Vaarala, Orion’s Senior Vice President, R&D.
Some of the ongoing research projects will continue – some may be terminated
The plan is to gradually phase out investment in the research of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's diseases and rare diseases by autumn 2022. In addition, the company will evaluate the commercial potential of inhaled pulmonary drugs that are in the early phase of development.
Orion is currently developing a new inhaled pulmonary drug (a tiotropium formulation) for the European market, and its bioequivalence study is underway. This study would be completed as planned, and this product and the entire Easyhaler product family play an important role in Orion’s growth in the future.
To balance its R&D operations, Orion is also simultaneously developing several new generic pharmaceuticals on its own and in collaboration with its partners. This work would continue unchanged, as would the research and development of veterinary drugs.
Sales of the current product portfolio will continue unchanged
Orion’s planned refocusing of its research and product development of new proprietary products would not have an effect on the current portfolio of products that are on sale. Oncology, which may be selected as the new focus of research and product development, has been very important for Orion’s growth and, the planned changes would further emphasise the importance of this therapy area as a driving force of growth.
The company will also continue to manufacture, sell and market inhaled pulmonary drugs, which is an important product group, and it intends to continue to invest in its pulmonary drugs that are already on the market.
Sales and marketing of the existing products in neurological disease range would also be continued as before. Research on pain management, which may be chosen as a new focus area, and the market for painkillers are attractive prospects for Orion and would support its current product portfolio.
Refocusing and reorganisation prompt co-determination negotiations
The planned reorganisation of Orion’s R&D function would require changes to the focus areas of the function, its organisational structure and reporting relationships, and there are production-related and operational grounds for these changes. In order to carry out the refocusing process and the reorganisation supporting it, Orion will today initiate negotiations under the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings concerning in total 430 salaried employees and senior salaried employees in Finland in Espoo, Turku and Kuopio in the research areas in which investment would be discontinued as a result of the refocusing, that is, in neurodegenerative and rare diseases. Where possible, the personnel in these functions will be transferred to cancer and pain research.
The company has today issued a negotiation proposal in accordance with the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings on the reorganisation of operations and possible personnel reductions. The operational changes and reorganisation are anticipated to result in changes to responsibilities, transfers to new positions and to other locations, changes to terms of employment and possible layoffs on production grounds.
The negotiations may lead at the most, to reductions of 37 persons. The plan is to implement some of the possible personnel reductions through retirement, part-time work and training opportunities. The company may also transfer persons affected by the negotiations to other roles in the group.
If the plans are put into effect, the refocused R&D function is expected to start by summer 2022.
Vice President, Communications, Orion Corporation
Tel. +358 50 966 4646
Orionintie 1A, FI-02200 Espoo, Finland
Orion is a globally operating Finnish pharmaceutical company - a builder of well-being. Orion develops, manufactures and markets human and veterinary pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. The company is continuously developing new drugs and treatment methods. The core therapy areas of Orion’s pharmaceutical R&D are currently neurological disorders, oncology and respiratory diseases for which Orion develops inhaled pulmonary drugs. Orion’s net sales in 2021 amounted to EUR 1,041 million, and the company had about 3,350 employees at the end of the year. Orion’s A and B shares are listed on Nasdaq Helsinki.