A Really Near-Term Application for Discovery Technology: Momenta and Sandoz Attempt a Biogeneric
The press release was foggy; Sandoz Inc., the generics unit of Novartis AG, was teaming up with a biotech, Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc. to commercialize "complex pharmaceutical products." Upon closer examination, the deal in fact has wide-ranging implications, representing the very real near-term possibility of a true generic biologic,
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The July 2006 alliance between Momenta Pharmaceuticals and Novartis AG's generics outfit Sandoz underscores the role sugar characterization technologies may play in both copying complex molecules like follow-on biologics and improving on existing glycoproteins and complex mixtures.
The jumpstart model reduces drug development risk by starting with existing drugs which are then reformulated or repurposed for new or expanded indications. In every case, the parent drug either already belongs to somebody else or has lost patent protection, or soon will, and is therefore freely available for others to exploit. As such, early competition is a significant risk for any jumpstart product. Devising an IP fence high enough to protect a new product could determine a company's success going forward.
Discovery research is an ever more difficult investment to justify, so companies are placing greater emphasis on mining discoveries that have already been made but whose real value remains unexploited. Big Pharma, in part inhibited by habit and current infrastructure, has not moved aggressively in the new direction-but the jumpstart model now dominates small-company strategies and will increasingly translate into the rest of the industry.