Antisoma Takes Refuge With Roche
Roche could easily have swallowed cash-poor Antisoma whole. But the Swiss group has instead bought rights to the UK biotech's entire clinical portfolio, hoping thereby to preserve Antisoma's creativity--rather like it has done with Genentech.
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NeuroSearch's broad and lucrative five-year deal with GSK ties up most of the biotech's remaining un-partnered pipeline candidates. But in exchange, the Danish group secures guaranteed funding that could last it through to profitability, and a strong endorsement as to the value of its science.
Partnering is a must for every drug firm these days. But Roche's reputation as a committed, yet hands-off development partner--forged in its relationship with Genentech--still sets it apart. Critics accuse the Swiss group of using partners to fill the gap in its own R&D; indeed, much of Roche's recent growth has come from others' drugs. Roche executives argue that you can't spot winners outside without a strong internal engine; that engine remains unproven. But point isn't whether Roche's own R&D is strong or weak. The point is, does it matter?
Roche's October 2003 in-licensing of Ipsen's Phase I GLP-1 analog buys the Swiss group an initial stake in the fast-growing diabetes market. Most established diabetes players already have a compound in this class, but the partners hope that Ipsen's expertise in peptide delivery will set this program apart from competitors'. As the second licensing agreement between Roche and Ipsen in less than a year, the deal further validates Ipsen's pipeline, and suggests that Roche's carefully-managed partnership strategy continues to encourage repeat business.