Biocon’s drug to halve psoriasis treatment costFirm may take Alzumab to global markets with strategic partners

Biocon, India’s largest publicly-held biotechnology firm, on Saturday launched its second novel ‘lab-to-market’ molecule, Alzumab, to treat chronic plaque psoriasis at a cost 50 per cent lower than the existing one.

The Biocon drug, at around Rs 7,500 a vial, will cost half as much as the currently available drugs – from Pfizer and J&J – to treat psoriasis, a skin disease that causes rough red areas where the skin comes off in small pieces. A patient is usually prescribed to consume more than 40 vials in a 24-week course.

Biocon is bringing Alzumab (a biologic) in the form of a vial after working on it for nearly a decade. The work had initially started in a joint effort with the Center of Molecular Immunology, Havana, but Biocon took control of the programme soon after and also bought out its partner a few years ago.

The company currently has the approval to market this drug in India but it plans to start the process to take it to restricted markets like the US through strategic partnerships. The company on Saturday said its total cost of bringing the drug to the Indian market was just a fraction of the $1 billion normally required to bring a novel drug to the market. However, the cost might increase exponentially as Biocon takes the drug to global trials. So, the company is looking for a partner to make parallel investments and take the drug to the global stage. The company’s management said it considered the drug a very valuable licensable asset.

To begin with, Biocon aims to tap the close-to-Rs 200-crore India market. Later, if it succeeds to market the drug globally, the scope for it will increase substantially – to as much as $8 billion by 2016.

CMD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said: “Biocon’s Alzumab is the first anti-CD6 monoclonal antibody to be commercialised, an outcome of path-breaking research in India. This new line of treatment will bring a paradigm shift in the management of psoriasis. We are proud that this will be the first instance of a breakthrough innovation from India with a potential to treat multiple autoimmune diseases.”

She added this novel molecule had the potential to transform the treatment options for several autoimmune diseases in addition to psoriasis – such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosism, etc. “It is potentially a pipeline within a product,” she said. Indicated for the treatment of moderate-to-severe psoriasis, this infusion drug will be manufactured at the Biopharma facility of Bangalore’s Biocon Park, Asia’s largest biotech hub.

Industry analysts tracking the pharma space said this was a positive for Biocon and they would advise a buy on the company’s stock. “The psoriasis space is an under-served market in India and, with Biocon’s competitive pricing, it should push in its revenues higher,” the pharma analyst at an Indian brokerage said.

BREAKTHROUGH DRUG

Cost factor: Biocon’s Alzumab will treat psoriasis in India at 50% the cost of existing drugs in the market

Easier regimen: Alzumab offers a new treatment option, with a less aggressive dosing regimen and a longer treatment-free period

Biologic treatment: Will provide an effective solution to 1-2% of Indian population suffering from psoriasis

Global plans: Biocon plans to take this drug to a global platform along with a strategic partner

Lab to market: Alzumab is Biocon’s second lab-to-market drug after the one to treat head & neck cancer launched in 2006

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