Biogen doubles down on biosimilars pact with Samsung Bioepis, bagging ophthalmology, anti-TNF drugs
A year after tying a tighter knot with Samsung Bioepis on a biosimilars joint venture, Biogen is handing over another $100 million to funnel several more programs to its own pipeline.
In exchange, the US biotech is bagging two new ophthalmology biosimilars — knockoffs of Novartis’ Lucentis and Regeneron’s Eylea, respectively. Those are exclusive commercialization rights for global markets; it can also commercialize a slate of anti-TNF drugs in China, including Benepali (etanercept), Flicabi (infliximab) and Imraldi (adalimumab). The partners are leaving open an option for Biogen to prolong their current agreement in Europe for five years.
SB11, which references Lucentis (ranibizumab), is in Phase III while SB15 3 clinical trial, while SB15, the Eylea copycat, is going through preclinical tests.
“This transaction would expand the potential for our leading biosimilars business worldwide, while complementing Biogen’s presence in ophthalmology,” CEO Michel Vounatsos said in a statement.
Biogen signaled its interest in eye diseases via a recent acquisition of Nightstar Therapeutics, which is developing gene therapies for rare retinal disorders. But it’s a modest effort to diversify in face of a $12 billion market opportunity in Alzheimer’s, where it has staked much of its hopes.
Last June, Biogen shelled out $700 million to boost its stake in the biosimilar venture to 49.9%, picking up an option planted in a 2011 deal under then chief George Scangos.
“In Europe, we have been very pleased with Biogen’s commercialization efforts with our anti-TNF medicines, fulfilling the mission of expanding access to high-quality medicines to patients across Europe,” noted Samsung Bioepis CEO Christopher Hansung Ko.
In addition to the upfront, Samsung Bioepis is also eligible for up to $210 million in milestones. Should Biogen exercise the option on its anti-TNF portfolio in Europe, a $60 million fee will be due.