Bayer has announced that it will shift the focus of its drug research away from women’s health to four core therapeutic areas: oncology, cardiovascular, neurology and rare diseases/immunology. This news comes after the refinement of Bayer’s early innovation framework, where it had decided to concentrate on the therapeutic areas with the best opportunities for delivering differentiated, high-value breakthrough medicines to patients. While Bayer’s commitment to women’s health has resulted in limited success and has fallen short of investor expectations, the pharmaceutical giant is still committed to pursuing some of its clinical-stage products, including elinzanetant and its two Phase I assets targeting endometriosis, BAY2328065 and BAY2395840, says GlobalData.

Following Bayer’s takeover of Schering Healthcare in 2006, where it inherited the oral contraceptive Yasmin (ethinyl estradiol + drospirenone) and the intrauterine device Mirena (levonorgestrel-releasing system), the German drugmaker has become one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical specialists in women’s health. The successful acquisition of Schering Healthcare was followed by a string of women’s health takeovers and large-scale collaborations to bolster Bayer’s pipeline.

In 2012, Bayer entered a five-year, multi-target collaboration with Evotec which yielded six non-hormonal pre-clinical candidates, two of which advanced to Phase I development: BAY2328065 and BAY2395840. In 2020, Bayer struck a $425m upfront deal to buy KaNDy Therapeutics, which added the UK-based biotech’s first-in-class menopause drug, elinzanetant, to its growing women’s health pipeline.

Despite Bayer’s commitment to women’s health, its efforts have resulted in limited success and have failed to meet expectations, leaving many investors dissatisfied and looking for a strategic change. As a result, Bayer has made the decision to re-focus its research efforts on oncology, cardiovascular disease, neurology and rare diseases/immunology, especially as the company has become a leading player in these areas following a string of recent deals involving cell and gene therapies.

While Yasmin and Mirena will now take a back seat in the company’s future corporate drugs strategy, Bayer is still committed to clinical-stage products, including elinzanetant, which aims to treat vasomotor symptoms during menopause, for which it projects peak sales of more than €1bn ($1.01bn).

Bayer will also continue to pursue its two Phase I assets, BAY2328065 and BAY2395840, which it co-developed with Evotec for the treatment of endometriosis. While the company’s research efforts in immunology could still yield products in women’s health in the future, Bayer appears to be set on scaling back R&D in this area for now.