Sandoz expands biosimilar pipeline in Bio-Thera collaboration

Sandoz has bolstered  its biosimilar pipeline by entering into a commercialization agreement with Bio-Thera for cancer treatment drug, bevacizumab.   

The deal, sees Sandoz (a Novartis division) and Chinese firm Bio-Thera Solutions partner to commercialize BAT1706, a biosimilar of Avastin (bevacizumab) .

“We see external collaborations as complementary to our internal programs, with an appropriate strategic balance enabling us to drive patient access by delivering portfolio breadth, balancing risks and costs and positioning us to play a leading role in the future biosimilar market,” a spokesperson for Sandoz told us.

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Bevacizumab is a recombinant monoclonal antibody (mAb) that targets vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and is used to treat various cancers and a specific eye disease.

The biosimilar is being developed and manufactured by Bio-Thera as a version of Genentech’s (now part of Roche) cancer medicine, Avastin , which received initial approval in the US for advanced colorectal cancer back in 2004.

Under the terms of the deal, Sandoz will have the right to commercialize the biosimilar upon approval in the US, Europe, Canada, and other countries. The agreement is in addition to the firm’s four marketed oncology biosimilars and 50+ generic medicines globally.

Roche’s financial report 2020 stated that Avastin made a total revenue of $5.4 billion globally.

Roche CEO Severin Schwan told analysts in April that while there are biosimilar versions of Avastin, MabThera and Herceptin in China, to date the impact on revenue has been limited and competition has remained prevalent in the US. However, Schwan said he believes they “will eventually penetrate the market more and cause more damage to our business.”

Strategic balance

Sandoz is one of the pioneers in the biosimilar space, receiving approval and launching the first biosimilar in the US in 2015 in the form of Zarxio (filgrastim), a version of Amgen’s Neupogen.

The firm has doubled the size of its biosimilar pipeline over the past three or so years, with at least one molecule being added each year.

While it has chosen to invest externally in a commercialization agreement regarding this particular deal, the firm said its choices are about strategic balance and internal investment is still rife.

“While many of these are internal, note that we typically only disclose internal programs once they reach Phase III trials in patients, while collaborations or partnerships may be disclosed earlier (by mutual agreement).”

Bio-Thera will receive an undisclosed upfront and milestone payments.

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