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Say ‘yes’ to nosocomial
December 2009
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


MARTINSRIED, Germany—Marking the signing of MorphoSys AG's first collaborator for HuCAL Platinum-based drug discovery in the area of infectious disease, MorphoSys announced recently that it is forming an alliance with Japanese company Daiichi Sankyo Co. in the discovery and development of therapeutic antibodies for hospital-acquired (nosocomial) infections.  
The terms of the deal call for MorphoSys and Daiichi Sankyo to collaboratively employ HuCAL Platinum, the latest and most powerful version of MorphoSys' antibody libraries. The companies report that they will use both traditional and novel approaches to generate optimized, fully human therapeutic antibodies against targets associated with nosocomial infections. Daiichi Sankyo will also commit to funding the development of certain infectious disease specific technology at MorphoSys, which will be used to identify the most effective antibody-based drugs.  
Although specific numbers haven't been made public, the companies note that total payments under the agreement include committed license fees and research and development funding, as well as success-based development milestones. MorphoSys also stands to receive royalties on sales of marketed drugs emerging from the collaboration.  
"This is another landmark deal for MorphoSys and is our first initiative in the infectious disease arena," says Dr. Simon Moroney, CEO of MorphoSys. "[This] is proof that MorphoSys can tap new growth opportunities in the therapeutic antibody field on top of the established partnerships the company has in place. We see lucrative opportunities for our new HuCAL Platinum technology in the infectious disease field, which we intend to exploit within selected partnerships in the years ahead."  
The companies note that there is a large, unmet need for effective, long-lasting drugs against pathogens in difficult-to-treat nosocomial infections. Currently, mortality rates in the specific area of focus sit at somewhere between 40 percent and 60 percent, due primarily to resistance to existing antibiotics. The global market for drugs targeted solely at bloodstream infections and hospital-acquired pneumonia is estimated to exceed $1 billion.  
This isn't the first time that MorphoSys and Daiichi Sankyo have worked together. They started collaborating in 2006 and that work, to date, has resulted in four active therapeutic antibody programs, mainly in oncology.   Moroney says the new agreement is "built on the strong existing relationship between the partners."
However, Chris Morrison at The In Vivo Blog, in analyzing the deal as part of the Oct 23 "Deals of the Week" blog post, notes that he and his fellow In Vivo Blog commentators didn't really expect MorphoSys to sign an antibody discovery and development alliance like this. And that is because the 10-year discovery and development deal MorphoSys signed with Novartis in December 2007 is designed, as Morrison notes, "to eventually replace MorphoSys' existing discovery deals as those alliances expire."  
he Novartis deal included committed payments in excess of $600 million over the lifetime of the agreement, with further potential for significant additional milestones, profit sharing and/or royalty payments based on products emerging from the collaboration. Not to mention the fact MorphoSys obtained certain co-development rights for selected programs and rights to co-detail the resulting products in specific territories through creation of its own sales force.
"Eventually, Novartis will become MorphoSys' exclusive discovery partner in nearly all therapeutic areas, so we thought new discovery deals were off the menu," Morrison wrote. But he did point out that the Novartis deal specifically excluded infectious diseases, so even as lucrative as it was, it left MorphoSys an opportunity—one that it has clearly capitalized on.
Code: E120907



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