Roche in new deal to co-development asthma drug

Roche said Thursday that it has entered into an agreement with Protein Design Labs for the joint development of Zenapax (daclizumab) for the treatment of asthma and related respiratory diseases, as reported in CNN Money and other news sources.

Zenapax recently produced positive results in a Phase II trial in asthma patients, and analysts note that it would complement Roche's R411 asthma therapy, currently in Phase II-b testing. Roche holds the rights to the drug's current indication for use in the prevention of organ rejection following renal transplantation.

"Today's deal offers Roche an opportunity to get some profile in the asthma market ahead of progress with its promising Phase II drug R411," ABN AMRO's Adrian Howd is quoted as saying. "We see this news as a small positive for Roche today. Clearly Roche is interested enough in the asthma data to revisit the drug, and PDL appears to have negotiated a decent deal."

Under the terms of the deal, Roche will pay the US-based biotechnology company an initial $17.5 million as well as up to $187.5 million in development and commercialisation fees for Zenapax. Roche and PDL will share development costs and will globally co-develop the drug and jointly market the drug in the US. PDL will receive royalties on net sales of Zenapax for the treatment of asthma outside the US.

"Roche has increasingly turned its attention towards smaller biotech firms in the search for new drugs in order to boost its product pipeline, signing over 43 development agreements with partner companies in 2003 alone," as reported in CNN.

Roche also announced this week that a study in the New England Journal of Medicine supported Pegasys' use in the treatment of hepatitis B. The drug, already approved for the treatment of hepatitis C, was shown to be a therapeutic advance over the current treatment lamivudine. Roche is hoping to garner FDA approval for the drug's use in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C in patients coinfected with hepatitis C and HIV, as well as for the type of chronic hepatitis B tested in the study.

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