In 1993, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals set up shop in East Greenbush in a portion of the former Sterling Winthrop site that sits on a hill along Route 20 as it rises from the city of Rensselaer.
Twenty-five years and several expansions later, the drug company is planning a second manufacturing and research campus not far away, within eyeshot of Interstate 90.
In between have been the usual ups and downs: clinical trials that looked promising but failed to yield breakthrough drugs; trials that both looked promising and were successful.
Now, thanks primarily to Eylea, Regeneron’s prescription eye injection for age- and diabetes-related vision loss, the company is profitable, with overall sales reaching $5.9 billion last year.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2012, a year after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Eylea, that Regeneron finally turned a profit. And it took another two years to fully wipe out the deficit accumulated since founding, which at its height stood at $1.3 billion.
Regeneron, incorporated 30 years ago, remains headquartered in Tarrytown, Westchester County, where research and development is focused. Its manufacturing operations are primarily in East Greenbush, although it also has a plant in Ireland.
Early on, revenue came from research and development and contract manufacturing done for others, which was offset by losses incurred as the company also attempted to develop and commercialize its own drugs. Today, Regeneron still collaborates with other drug firms, such as Sanofi, Bayer and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, in developing new products; those firms get a cut of global sales for overseas promotion of the successful ones.
In addition to Eylea, Regeneron also has five other FDA-approved drugs, and as of June had 19 drugs or drug candidates in its development pipeline. The company focuses on commercializing medicines to help fight allergic and inflammatory diseases, heart disease, pain, cancer and infections.
While Bayer may be a household name, Regeneron isn’t. And neither is Eylea, even though the drug accounted for nearly two-thirds of Regeneron’s revenue last year.
The company sees prospects for future sales of Eylea as the U.S. ages and as the drug’s use in diabetic retinal diseases becomes better known. That’s why a four-page advertising spread in Parade magazine last Sunday told readers to “ask your doctor” about Eylea, and why a TV campaign for the drug is planned in multiple U.S. markets.
Greater recognition can bring greater demand for the product, which Regeneron realizes it must be ready to meet – hence the second campus, which has been on the company’s drawing board for a few years.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo heaped praise on Regeneron earlier this month in announcing the planned East Greenbush expansion, which will be eligible for state performance-based incentives.
Regeneron will invest $800 million over seven years in the project, according to Cuomo, and add 1,500 workers to the 5,400 already on payroll in the state.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]