AstraZeneca will maintain flat R&D spending through 2016, CEO Pascal Soriot told analysts and investors at the JP Morgan 32nd Annual Healthcare Conference—despite trumpeting a resurgence in drug development activity earlier this week, as the pharma scrambles to fill a portfolio depleted in recent years by patent-cliff losses and clinical failures.

“We said we’d keep R&D flat, stable. Our intent is to keep it where it is until we show improved productivity,” Soriot said during a question-and-answer session that followed the company’s presentation at the conference, held at the Westin St. Francis hotel.

Soriot did not furnish numbers, holding those until the company releases fourth quarter and full-year results on February 6. AZ finished 2012 spending $4.452 billion on core R&D, down 11% from 2011, but flat from January–September 2013 to $3.064 billion, up just $3 million from Q1–Q3 2012. In March, the company said it would shrink its global R&D workforce by 1,600 while consolidating activity in the U.K., Sweden, and the U.S.

AZ said its number of Phase III new molecular entities (NMEs) nearly doubled over the past year, to 11. Much of that activity came from a spate of deals since Soriot took over as CEO late in 2012. The biggest of those deals, disclosed last month, is AZ’s $4 billion-plus acquisition of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s global diabetes business, developed through a collaboration with AZ.

In his presentation, Soriot said six AZ compounds were candidates to launch Phase III trials this year—AZD9191 (NSCLC), MEDI-4376 (solid tumors), tralokinumab (asthma), Roxadustat (FG 4592; ESRD/chronic kidney disease), AZD3293 (Alzheimer’s disease), and mavrilimumab (rheumatoid arthritis).

The number of possible Phase III candidates will jump next year to 13.

Already this year, AZ has already won approval for the type 2 diabetes drug Farxiga. The company anticipates winning more U.S. or European approvals for:

  • Xigduo for type 2 diabetes (EU, Q1)
  • Epanova for severe hypertriglyceridemia (U.S. approval, Q2)
  • Bydureon dual-chamber pen, for type 2 diabetes (U.S. approval, Q2; EU approval, Q4)
  • Olaparib for ovarian cancer, platinum relapsed (possible U.S. approval, third quarter; EU approval, Q4)
  • Dapagliflozin plus saxagliptin combination for type 2 diabetes (U.S. approval, also Q4)
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