Biogen is bolstering its strategy of selling biosimilars—lower-cost versions of biological drugs that are losing patent protection—with a $100 million deal for rights to two eye products. The drug maker is also expanding its biosimilar scope to include China.
Cambridge, MA-based Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) struck the deal with Samsung Bioepis, its joint venture with Samsung BioLogics of South Korea. Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Biogen will pay Samsung Bioepis $100 million up front for the rights to SB11, a drug that’s biologically similar to Roche’s drug ranibizumab (Lucentis); and SB15, which references the Regeneron (NASDAQ: REGN) drug aflibercept (Eylea).
The Roche and Regeneron drugs, both blockbuster sellers, treat the “wet” form of age-related macular degeneration. Biogen gains the rights to the Samsung Bioepis biosimilars in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Australia. Samsung Bioepis could gain up to $210 million in payments, pegged to milestones. Samsung Bioepis will be responsible for the development of the two biosimilars.
The deal also expands Biogen’s commercialization rights for three biosimilars for inflammation. Under a previous agreement with Samsung Bioepis, Biogen has the rights to commercialize those drugs—knockoffs of etanercept, infliximab, and adalimumab—in Europe, and in the case of the etanercept biosimilar, also Japan. Biogen reported $545.1 million in 2018 sales from those biosimilars, a 43 percent increase over the previous year.
According to the latest agreement with Samsung Biopeis, Biogen gains exclusive commercialization rights for those drugs in China in exchange for royalties from sales in that market. Biogen also gains an option to extend the term of the agreement covering European commercialization of these drugs.
In a prepared statement, Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos said that the deal with Samsung Bioepis gives his company the potential to grow its biosimilar business globally, while also complementing its presence in eye drugs. Earlier this year, Biogen paid $800 million to acquire Nightstar Therapeutics, a developer of gene therapies for rare eye diseases.
Biogen and Samsung BioLogics formed Samsung Bioepis in 2011. At that time, Biogen’s stake in the venture was 15 percent. Last year, Biogen paid $700 million to exercise its right to boost its ownership position to 49.9 percent.
Photo by Biogen