Provenge consists of a signalling protein attached to white blood cells which, when returned to the patient from whom they have been harvested, stimulate an immune response against cancer tumor cells. Under the new contract PharmaCell will be responsible for producing the treatment at its facility Maastricht.
The announcement follows weeks after EU authorities cleared Provenge for asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic (non-visceral) castrate resistant prostate cancer in men for whom chemotherapy is not yet clinically indicated.
PharmaCell CEO Alexander Vos said: "We have worked with Dendreon since 2011, and the decision to extend our relationship is a testament to the dedication and expertise of our team who have worked with Dendreon throughout the Technology Transfer and European approval process over the past few years."
Outsourcing production to PharmaCell differs with the strategy Dendreon follows in the US where, after Provenge was approved in 2010, the Seattle firm has made the treatment itself at facilities in Morris Plains, New Jersey, Seal Beach, California and Union City, Georgia.
News of the deal comes amid speculation that Dendreon is a takeover target. According to an unnamed source quoted by Reuters last night , the Seattle firm is working with bankers at JPMorgan Chase to find a buyer.
Whether the buyout rumour turns out to be accurate is anyone’s guess. What is clear, however, is that Provenge –Dendreon’s only approved product - has not been selling as well as the firm predicted for some time.
Last year Dendreon announced its decision to sell its Morris Plains plant to Swiss drugmaker Novartis for $43m to “align with our near-term manufacturing requirements” after “a decrease in anticipated revenue growth in 2011.”
Since then things have not improved. In May Dendreon revealed sales had fallen to $67m from $82m in the year earlier quarter and in August it reported that revenue for the second quarter was also down, falling 8% to $73m.
It is too early to say if European demand for Provenge will be healthier.