Dealmaking in 2012 off to a good start
European dealmaking numbers went up in 2011, but what will 2012 look like? It’s still early days, but the year has already seen some major agreements and takeovers. With the exception of Roche, which has issued a US$5.7bn hostile bid for Illumina Inc., most of the activity is dominated by US companies like Amgen, Bristol-Myers-Squibb and Celgene. Because many antibody patents run out this year, however, the biosimilars sector in particular is expected to see a lot more action.
By 2017, biologics revenues of US$60bn are in danger due to patent expiry, according to an analysis by Burrill & Co. Despite its special requirements, biosimilar development has become a very popular area.
None of the currently approved biosimilars comes even close to antibodies in terms of complexity, but financial incentives make the idea of biosimilar antibodies tempting. Remicade (US$4bn in annual sales) goes off-patent in Europe in 2014. Herceptin (US$5.7bn) and Rituxan (US$5.5bn) follow in the same year and 2015, respectively.
One of the most active players in the market is Merck & Co. The US pharma is aiming to have five biosimilars in late-stage testing by 2011. To do so, it has formed various alliances. Merck’s new friends include the CRO Parexel and South Korean manufacturer Hanwha Chemical. The partners are currently trying to bring to market a generic version of the fusion protein Enbrel (sales of US$6.2bn in 2010). And there are new players in the sector, including Samsung. The South Korean electronics conglomerate known for mobile phones and flat-screen TVs has identified biologics as a promising target. Over the next 10 years, it’s investing US$1.9bn in the area. Even Amgen, not long ago one of the strongest opponents of biosimilars, has teamed up with Watson Pharmaceuticals to develop and commercialise biosimilar oncology drugs, among them many antibodies.