Celltech Gets Second Bite of CDP 870 Cherry
When Big Pharma companies hand back licensed products to their biotech originators it's generally considered bad news for the biotech. But it needn't always be so. Pfizer's decision to return rights to Celltech's anti-inflammatory antibody CDP 870 hit Celltech's share price hard, but could ultimately open up a wealth of options and opportunities to the company.
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Celltech could not get the deal value it expected for its late-stage anti-inflammatory treatment--perhaps indicating a Big Pharma reluctance to pay the kinds of prices it has been paying. So UCB struck while it could. Led by new management it seized the opportunity to make what is a transforming move for the midsized European company-from undersized primary care group into a specialist, biopharma firm ranked alongside--indeed above--European biotech bellwether, Serono. If it works, the deal provides a model for other mid-sized European pharmas, looking for a way out of the primary care trap and, like UCB, to use mid-size advantages to power a sustainable long-term strategy.
When Micromet's development partner for lead anti-carcinoma antibody MT201 was bought by Cell Therapeutics in mid-2003, the German biotech was forced to restructure significantly in order to continue funding the program through Phase II trials alone. Micromet isn't the only biotech to see a partnering deal scuppered by M&A. But it and others have shown that these days, a rejected program doesn't mean a dead program. Micromet has since signed a manufacturing partner and its plans to take the program through Phase II alone remain on track.
Companies--in particular Europeans--are developing plenty of new biotech treatments for Crohn's disease. But the regulatory path is tough. This painful inflammatory bowel disease is complex and intermittent and responds well to placebo. As such, companies routinely miss primary endpoints-as was recently the case for Elan's Antegren and Schering's Leukine. But Antegren, Celltech's CDP-870, and Leukine could, if approved, reshape their owner's prospects-and potentially give Europe's small-and mid-sized firms the boost they need.