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Amgen and Genentech IP deal signals growing interest in therapeutic antibody market
March 2006
by Randall C Willis  |  Email the author


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. —Biotech giants Amgen and Genentech announced the signing of licensing agreements that granted each company access to multiple patents related to the manufacture and use of antibodies and related technologies. This includes a license for multiple products under Genentech's Cabilly patent family (including U.S. Patent No. 6,331,415) relating to the methods and vectors required to produce antibodies.
The companies were unable to elaborate on further financial and technical details, but the deal signals the desire of both companies, who would otherwise be seen as key rivals, to extend their reach into the increasingly lucrative domain of antibody-based therapeutics. According to a January 2005 report by Frost & Sullivan, the monoclonal antibody therapeutics market in Europe alone was expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 34.1 percent and to amass an $11.4 billion market by 2011.
As though foreseeing the licensing deal, Frost analyst Dr. Raju Adhikari suggested: "Success [in this market] will depend on a medley of key factors including innovative molecular engineering, shorter development times, higher success rates, robust and efficient intellectual property (IP) protection and development of cost-effective manufacturing."

According to Anne Anscomb, an analyst with Kalorama Information, this deal is also part of a greater trend in recent years for companies to collaborate on the development of multi-modality approaches in the treatment of diseases like cancer. "Developing the data and clinical experience with a specific multi-modality necessary to create significant penetration in the market is often too expensive for a single player, especially if it means they end up co-promoting a competitor's product," says Anscomb.

And as Carol ine Pecquet from Genentech Corporate Relations indicates, Amgen and Genentech have a history of collaboration as each partner has initiated projects with companies that were later acquired by the other partner. Genentech is expected to announce results from one such project in the first quarter of 2006.

For Genentech, the current deal signals its continued commitment to developing therapeutic antibodies, best exemplified by Herceptin and Rituxan. According to company documents, Genentech is not only looking to extend the therapeutic domain of these two products, but also hopes to develop similar treatments modalities for disorders such as allergic asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.
The ability of Amgen to leverage this new IP will no doubt be influenced most directly by the company's recent efforts to dramatically expand its R&D operations both at current research centers, as well as new operations in Uxbridge , U.K. and future expansion in Japan , Canada , and Australia .
In January, Dr. Ron Perlmutter, executive vice president of Research & Development, stated: "This significant, long-term investment in our global R&D infrastructure underscores the commitment of Amgen to be the world's best human therapeutics company."
The company's ability to develop antibody-based therapeutics was most recently reflected in the February announcement of results from a successful Phase II trial of denosumab in the treatment of osteoporosis. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the findings suggest that the drug significantly increased bone mineral density in patients compared to placebo.
Code: E030616



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