June 16, 2003
Volume 81, Number 24
CENEAR 81 24 p. 6
ISSN 0009-2347


BIOPHARMACEUTICALS

BIOTECH DEALS BREAK DOWN
Product setbacks and shifting views lead companies to cancel agreements

ANN THAYER

Biopharmaceutical drug development continues to be precarious. Just days after positive cancer clinical trial results boosted the sector, several companies stopped collaborating because their drug candidates failed to perform.

Isis Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly reported in March that their anticancer drug Affinitak failed to prolong survival among lung cancer patients. As a result, the partners just renegotiated a manufacturing deal, releasing Lilly from a supply agreement and forgiving a $21 million loan from Lilly that Isis used to build a plant.

But Affinitak, Stanley T. Crooke, Isis CEO, stressed, "is just one clinical trial of one product--we know antisense technology works." Lilly recently paid Isis $1.5 million for a milestone in another drug collaboration.


"We have certainly experienced a disappointment and a setback in the commercialization of antisense drugs."

--Stanley T. Crooke, Isis CEO


Similarly, Biogen and Icos have halted their work on leukocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1) antagonists after failing to see efficacy with a lead candidate. Icos has reacquired LFA-1 rights and will focus on more potent compounds. And it will still record $21 million in revenues from upfront fees and forgiven loans from the canceled deal.

Despite the reversal, Icos' star has been rising. Its stock price has more than doubled since March when it launched its anti-impotence drug Cialis in Europe with Lilly; they expect U.S. approval this year.

Meanwhile, Enzon Pharmaceuticals and NPS Pharmaceuticals terminated their merger when Enzon rebuffed NPS's last-minute attempt to renegotiate the $770 million deal. NPS--with a development pipeline but no products--wanted Enzon's five commercial drugs and its cash reserves. NPS now has launched a $170 million debt offering.



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