In 1987, a young researcher decided to seize the opportunity to build on the promise of molecular biology that had helped to create a critical mass of companies in the biotech arena. At that time, research into central nervous system disorders was in its infancy and Cephalon founder, scientist and CEO, Frank Baldino, Jr. PhD envisioned creating a different kind of company that would be a hybrid of the best assets, and hopefully none of the worst features, of pharmaceutical, biotech, and specialty pharmaceutical companies.
Over its first 20 years, Cephalon has invested approximately $2 billion on research and development of its compounds. The foundation of its research facility is in West Chester, Pa., only a few miles from its corporate headquarters in Frazer. Nearly fifty percent of its workforce in the Commonwealth is dedicated to research and development with scientists and other research specialists employed in this capacity. And Cephalon's workforce is continuing to grow, with opportunities for scientists and others who wish to work in a dynamic environment where they can have an impact and be on the cutting edge of the latest advances in pharmaceutical science.
Staying in the Philadelphia region, even when initial investors tried to lure the company to Silicon Valley, has also been central to the health of the company, Baldino says. "We benefited from working in the Greater Philadelphia area with its medical schools and pharmaceutical companies and it has been wonderful to watch the region's biotech sector grow over the years." Since 2002, Cephalon has expended over $130 million on capital investments in Pennsylvania, most of which has been related to building world class research and laboratory space.
The first ten years of its research activity focused on collaborations with large pharmaceutical companies working on stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. In those early days, Cephalon made the novel discovery that insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) had the ability to rescue neurons and potentially slow the course of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrigs' disease. While that compound did not reach the market, the research sparked an approach that would provide even greater discoveries. The expanding knowledge of programmed cell death or apoptosis - the body's natural process for eliminating cells that are no longer needed, or are seriously damaged - led to the development of new drugs for combating cancer. Groundbreaking work in cell signaling pathways came CEP-701 (lestaurtinib), and a potential breakthrough in "personalized medicine" - enabling physicians to choose a course of therapy based on genetic characteristics that may indicate when a response to therapy may be successful.
Today, Cephalon clinical researchers are assessing the effectiveness of CEP-701 in treating patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). CEP-701 is a targeted agent against AML in patients at first relapse from standard induction chemotherapy and whose disease presents with a genetic alteration known as a FLT-3 activating mutation. An estimated 12,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with AML in 2005, according to the American Cancer Society. Approximately 25-30 percent of these patients have a FLT-3 genetic mutation that is associated with a poorer prognosis for relapse and survival.
In addition, Cephalon has six oncology compounds in pre-clinical development including compounds that inhibit the key kinase pathways that control the formation of blood vessels in tumors. Understanding the mechanisms that govern DNA damage and repair is leading Cephalon to new approaches to shrinking tumors by disrupting their ability to adapt to and resist other cancer therapies.
Finding such promising new compounds is a lengthy process. Bringing a new drug to market can take 10 years and cost $1 billion, with no guarantee of success. "As scientists, we know that drug discovery and development is a marathon, not a race," says Jeffrey Vaught, PhD Executive Vice President of Research. "We enhance our research and development efforts by forming strategic partnerships." Cephalon scientists are targeting the VEGF/Tie2 kinase inhibitor, and developing CEP-11981 for treating solid tumors and certain hematologic malignancies, as well as the proteasome inhibitor CEP-18770 to treat multiple myeloma.
In 1999, Cephalon introduced the first in class, wake-promoting agent for the treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy PROVIGIL® (modafinil) Tablets [C-IV]. Eight years later, its single-isomer formulation, NUVIGIL (armodafinil) Tablets [C-IV], was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Since launching PROVIGIL, the company and the scientific community have learned more about the types of conditions where these compounds can help patients with sleep, neurologic and psychiatric disorders. This knowledge has led to the development of NUVIGIL as a treatment for conditions such as bipolar depression, cognition associated with schizophrenia, excessive sleepiness in medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease, and fatigue in patients who are being treated for cancer.
Today, Cephalon has eight proprietary products in the United States, more than 20 products outside of the United States, 3,000 employees, offices in three states and a presence in 35 countries. Add to that outstanding financial growth over the last six years, and membership on the Fortune 1000 list, the NASDAQ 100 and in the Community of Global Growth Companies of the World Economic Forum and the rewards of two decades of hard work and dedication shows.
Cephalon's demonstrated success in acquiring and marketing innovative, high-growth products makes these critical investments in scientific discovery possible. It sustains the research that holds the promise for changing the course of debilitating diseases. "When we started Cephalon 20 years ago, we had a vision to bring freedom from disease suffering to those most in need," says Baldino. "Today, we have helped millions manage their medical conditions and get their lives back."
Looking ahead, Baldino hopes to expand the company's global presence and continue to create effective products, while staying true to his original dreams and inspirations. "When a product is successful it is very satisfying to see how it changes people's lives for the better," he says. "This is why we keep working so hard."
For more information, please visit www.cephalon.com