Drug Development

Regeneron picks a new delivery tech in effort to upgrade flagship blockbuster Eylea

Ocular CEO Amar Sawhney

Ocular CEO Amar Sawhney

Last year, Regeneron reported $2.7 billion in Eylea sales, projecting $3.2 billion for this year. And now, 5 years after the blockbuster approval that set the company up for one of the most remarkable R&D runs in biotech, the company is going to work with a new delivery technology to see if they can make a better drug, with a fresh patent runway.

This morning, Regeneron $REGN and Ocular Therapeutix $OCUL spelled out a $315 million deal to use Ocular’s “hydrogel” on Eylea, exploring its potential to more durably get the drug into the back of the eye, reducing the number of injections patients face when treated for wet, age related macular degeneration and other retinal diseases.

But Ocular CEO Amar Sawhney says they’ve been informally collaborating for the past two years already, giving Regeneron investigators plenty of time to do initial proof of principle work before formalizing the pact.

Shares of Ocular Therapeutix shot up 16% on the tie-up with Regeneron.

This is a no money down deal, with $10 million due if Regeneron picks up its option on the program during the initial 18-month stage as Ocular takes on responsibility for development work through Phase I. That’s in addition to $155 million in development and regulatory milestones and another $150 million for sales goals. Ocular has a market cap of $156 million.

“They are a very scientifically driven company,” says Sawhney about his work with Regeneron over the past two years. Investigators wanted to gain confidence that Ocular’s hydrogel tech had a real chance of making a significant difference for Eylea, looking to reduce injections of the anti-VEGF therapy from around once every one or two months – depending on disease progression – to once every 4 to 6 months.

Developing a new delivery tech for the back of the eye “makes for a very high challenge,” says the CEO. And it’s flattering to be picked as a partner by a company like Regeneron, which has been battling Roche’s Lucentis and off-label Avastin for market share. Success here, he adds, would open up a brand new patent runway for Eylea.

The Bedford, MA-based company, founded a decade ago, now has about 100 staffers, with one product on the market. The biotech also just launched a Phase III study for sustained release travopost – which uses its hydrogel tech – in a study for glaucoma and ocular hypertension.

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