Biogen is celebrating a significant milestone with its 40th anniversary in 2018. Founded in 1978 by Nobel Prize-winning scientists as one of the world’s first global biotechnology companies, the organization has been a leader in innovative scientific research aiming to defeat devastating neurological diseases.

“Our focus has been on neurology because we believe that no other disease area holds as much promise for medical breakthroughs,” says Marina Vasiliou, General Manager at Biogen Canada. “With such significant unmet need in this space, we are uniquely positioned to provide innovative solutions for patients, thanks to our solid foundation in neurology.”

She notes that millions of people around the world are affected by Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and many people also suffer from less common diseases such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP).

To pursue its goals, Biogen has some of the world’s best neurologists and neuroscientists on staff, and it spends over $2 billion USD annually — about 20 percent of annual revenues — on research and development. The company also seeks partnerships with scientific leaders around the world in an effort to advance medical research.

In Canada, Biogen has forged partnerships with the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Alberta, among others. Nationally, there are 33 active research studies, with 1,640 patients enrolled in active studies, and Biogen has invested $5.5 million in data registries.

“Our unique focus on neuroscience, our deep scientific expertise, and our courage to take risks make us leaders in the research and development of medicines to transform neuroscience to benefit society,” says Vasiliou.

Beyond research, Biogen has also developed its capabilities to create what it views as novel ways to seamlessly transition products from development to manufacturing, with the intent of bringing high-quality medicines to market faster. In recognizing the challenges facing health care systems today, Biogen also works with regulatory authorities, health care providers, and payers, to allow those in need to access its medicines.

“We have deep respect for the contribution of health care providers caring for people living with neurological diseases, and their families and friends who also care about them. We are committed to working closely with patient organizations,” says Vasiliou. “Our products bring tremendous benefit to our patients and have the power to transform people’s lives.”

The company is particularly proud of a new therapy to help treat SMA. Though the disorder affects only one in 10,000, its symptoms can be devastating. Many children with SMA don’t live past their second birthday and many others are confined to a wheelchair and dependent on respiratory and feeding equipment. For a community where there were previously no treatments available, Biogen’s new product is bringing hope to many patients and their families. “It’s a true innovation and we’re working hard with authorities in Canada to make it available for as many patients as possible,” Vasiliou says.

For Vasiliou, the future of global health care technologies is bright. “As we look to the future and the next 40 years at Biogen, there is much to be excited about. I’m very optimistic.”