The deal with BD marks an acceleration of France-based Aptar's injectables programme, which got underway four years ago as part of a drive to expand its portfolio beyond dispensing pumps and sprays and aerosol drug delivery devices.
Auto-injectors are spring-loaded devices holding a prefilled syringe that are designed to be used safely and conveniently by patients for self-injection in a non-medical environment.
This type of delivery device is seeing rapid uptake among biotech drugs for arthritis and other conditions and is expected to be a major driver for the pre-filled syringe market, outstripping background market growth for injectable devices.
The new development and license agreement with BD will see the two companies collaborate on an injectable delivery device that will marry Aptar's two-step auto-injector technology with Neopak and Hypak pre-fillable syringes from BD.
Under the terms of the deal the two-step auto-injector will be exclusively sold by BD, slotting into its existing auto-injector range.
"We are pleased to be extending our relationship with BD from pharmaceutical elastomer components supplier to now also include joint development of an auto-injector system," commented Salim Haffar, president of Aptar Pharma.
For Aptar the venture is something of a coup, given that BD is a dominant player in the pre-filled syringe market, which is expected to show strong growth in the coming years thanks to increasing number of biologics coming through pharma pipelines.
According to market research firm Smithers Pira the company has around 60% market share, well ahead of rivals such as Gerresheimer and Schott. It estimates that the global market for pre-filled syringes will grow to $6.6 billion in 2020, up from $3 billion in 2013.
Aptar says its device has the advantage of being an easy-to-use, compact unit and is also capable of delivering high viscosity formulations, including some of the newest biologics.
Highly viscous formulations generally take longer to deliver, which can be uncomfortable for patients and have posed a perennial challenge to device manufacturers.