Roche has been showcasing its "industry-leading pipeline" at an investor conference in London and stressed the importance of personalised medicine in its portfolio.

The Swiss major is working on 72 new molecular entities and is running 19 late-stage clinical trials, 12 of which involve NMEs that are expected to read out over the next 18 months. Roche has also committed to a stable R&D budget, at a time when most of its peers are reducing their research spend.

In terms of oncology, to which about 50% of its R&D budget is allocated, Roche stressed its development of antibody–drug conjugates (ADCs) "that combine the specificity of antibodies with the power of chemotherapy and may result in improved efficacy and fewer adverse events". The most advanced ADC is T–DM1, which combines Herceptin (trastuzumab) with partner ImmunoGen's chemotherapy DM1 (emtansine) significantly extended the lives of people with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Roche has nine ADCs in its pipeline.

In addition to oncology, Roche is also focusing on neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. A Phase III programme of six studies is ongoing for bitopertin, an investigational first-in-class glycine reuptake inhibitor for schizophrenia and a companion diagnostics assay is in development. It is also looking at multiple targets in Alzheimer’s disease covering a range of approaches such as preventing the production of amyloid (with a BACE inhibitor called RG7129) and removing amyloid plaque with the monoclonal antibodies gantenerumab and crenezumab.

The company also highlighted its research in metabolic diseases, such as aleglitazar for cardiovascular risk reduction in patients with type 2 diabetes who have experienced acute coronary syndrome and are at very high risk for further CV events. It also mentioned rontalizumab, a humanised anti-interferon-alpha antibody in development for moderately to severely active systemic lupus erythematosus.

Chief executive Severin Schwan noted that "more than 60% of our pharmaceutical pipeline projects are coupled with the development of companion diagnostics". He added that the recent launches of the skin cancer drugs Zelboraf (vemurafenib) and the new HER2 breast cancer therapy Perjeta (pertuzumab) "are examples of the concept of personalised healthcare becoming reality".