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biology: Dr Reddy’s Laboratories jumps into the fray for Biogen’s biosimilars

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Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL) has joined the race to acquire the biosimilar products portfolio of US-based Biogen in a transaction worth a potential $1 billion, according to two people aware of the development. Another Indian company in the fray is Intas Pharmaceuticals, Mint reported on September 13.

According to reports, Samsung Bioepis is also a candidate to acquire the portfolio. Biogen joined hands with Samsung biosimilars production unit Samsung Biologics to establish Samsung Bioepis in 2012 for developing biosimilars. As part of exiting its biosimilars business, Biogen sold off its stake in Samsung Bioepis at $2.3 billion in February last year.

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Big-ticket deal
“Biogen does not comment on market rumours and/or speculation,” said a spokesperson. “We have previously announced that we are evaluating strategic options for the biosimilars business and will provide further updates on the process as appropriate.”
DRL didn’t respond to queries sent on Thursday.

A biosimilar is similar in structure and function to a biologic medication. The development and production process is more complex than that of small molecule drugs and involves expertise with biologics and their production.

Global investment bank Evercore is advising Biogen on the sale of the portfolio.

The company posted revenue of $751 million from its biosimilars portfolio in FY22, against $831 million in FY21. About 70 Biogen biosimilars have been approved in Europe and 35 in the US. Its biosimilars are mainly used for 15 indications across immunology and ophthalmology therapy areas.

If a deal takes place, it will be the second-largest biosimilar buyout by an Indian company. Last year, Biocon Biologics – the biosimilar manufacturing arm of Biocon – acquired the global biosimilars business of partner Viatris Inc (formerly Mylan) for $3 billion.

At the forefront
DRL, which has also been in the news as a potential candidate to acquire the promoters’ stake in Cipla, has been aggressively expanding its biosimilars portfolio globally. About half a dozen products are being marketed in India and several emerging markets, while others are at various stages of approval in the US and Europe. Its R&D spend for FY23 is Rs 1,938 crore ($236 million), which is about 8% of sales.

It has launched biosimilar Stimufend (pegfilgrastim), used to treat neutropenia, or low white blood cell count, caused by cancer medicines. DRL has completed clinical studies for a Rituximab biosimilar and filed applications in the US, Europe and the UK. Its Tocilizumab (Roche’s Actemra) biosimilar candidate met its primary and secondary endpoints in a phase I study in June. Tocilizumab is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases.

“We are progressing well in development of our biosimilar products and working on some niche opportunities in our Horizon 2 initiatives,” DRL chief executive Erez Israeli said during an investor call in May.

More than $180 billion of originator biologic sales are expected to transition to biosimilars this decade. Biosimilars are on track to reduce US drug expenditure by $133 billion by 2025, according to the Biogen website.

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