Merck targets biosimilars market with help from Parexel

By Alexandria Pešić

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pharmacology

Merck plans to cash in on the biogenerics industry after forming a partnership with Parexel to develop copies of biologic drugs within its Merck BioVentures division.

Under the deal, a dedicated Merck BioVentures unit will be set up within the Parexel organisation and Parexel will provide Merck BioVentures access to a range of regulatory strategy and clinical development planning capabilities for particular classes of biosimilars that address various therapeutic areas.

Michael Kamarck, president of Merck BioVentures, said: “Through this agreement, Merck BioVentures has secured broad strategic access to Parexel’s proven biosimilar clinical development experience.”

He went on to say: “This agreement positions Merck BioVentures for success with an industry leading partner that has the expertise and resources to conduct clinical development of our diverse portfolio of candidates to allow timely delivery of products to the marketplace.”

Merck formed its BioVentures business unit in 2008, and claims it will bring five compounds to late stage development by 2012.

GlycoFi provided foot in biologics door

Having also acquired the biotech company GlycoFi in 2006, along with its humanized GlycoFi yeast-based platform which can produce proteins in yeasts, Merck is well positioned to vie for a place in the follow-on biologics market.

And with numerous patent expirations of leading biologic drugs due to fall in the period leading up to 2017, and US Congress having last year approved a regulatory pathway to simplify the process of getting generic biologics to market, drugmakers like Merck and Parexel stand in line to gain from this potentially lucrative opportunity.

The deal, of which financial terms are yet to be disclosed, suggests that pharma and biotech firms have recognised the burgeoning market for biosimilars, and may soon become fierce competitors to generic drugmakers.

Seeking partnerships in emerging markets

As well as seeking additional revenue streams through biosimilars, Merck has expressed an interest in diversifying into emerging markets.

This week, CEO Ken Frazier announced that Merck is seeking partnerships as part of its plan to boost drug sales in emerging markets.

He said it is less expensive to form partnerships than to acquire a company. Subsequent to that, the company would be more likely to reach its goal of achieving drug sales in emerging market that account for 25 per cent of its total revenue by 2013.

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