Alizyme/Takeda: Japan Deals Gather Steam
Alizyme's out-licensing pact with Takeda for Japanese rights to the UK biotech's Phase II anti-obesity compound ATL-962 underscores the practical and funding advantages of a Japanese-market deal as a precursor to negotiating US and European licenses. Opportunities for other European biotechs to do the same may increase: Takeda's willingness to develop a still relatively early-stage compound in a tricky development area highlights Japanese firms' particularly acute need for pipeline products.
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European biotech companies have historically shied away from regional transactions in Japan, instead lumping Japanese rights into global deals with more familiar Western counterparts. But some recent deals indicate that they're beginning to recognize the significant value in separating out Japanese rights. Particularly since nowadays, licensing in Japan needn't be any more challenging than it is anywhere else.
KuDOS Pharmaceuticals' first out-licensing deal appears disappointing: the UK biotech has neither signed an established cancer player nor secured a significant upfront fee for its potentially first-in-class cancer compound, in a hot area of research. But the point of the deal is not to bolster KuDOS' cash coffers, rather, to combine the resources of two biotechs to investigate the drug's potential in a broader range of indications than either company could do alone.
Biovitrum's record-breaking deal with Amgen--the largest licensing transaction by a European Biotech player to date-secures for Biovitrum the financial and strategic means to help it become a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company. The deal is also strategically important to Amgen, giving the company a way into the primary care segment. But the price and risk are high: there's no clinical proof of efficacy on the compound and there's no competitive compound on the market, or even in late-stage clinical trials, proving the value of the target. Thus the broader implication for the industry: as the costs of late-stage licensing become prohibitive-and the compounds themselves unavailable-in-licensers are increasingly looking to earlier-stage products to bolster their pipelines, with deal prices, and risks, rising correspondingly.