Biogen Idec signs up with Samsung on $300 million biosimilars venture

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Biogen Idec CEO George Scangos (photo) has made good on his vow to hammer out a major joint venture on biosimilars. The biotech has announced it is joining forces with South Korean conglomerate Samsung, biting off $45 million of a $300 million investment to ramp up a new operation to develop, manufacture and market biosimilars--one of the hottest areas in biopharma for a select group of players with the money needed to play the game.

Biogen ($BIIB) will go to work with Samsung Biologics, a newly minted development and manufacturing group forged by the Korean conglomerate and CRO Quintiles. Samsung officials initially talked up plans to develop a biosimilar of Rituxan, a blockbuster treatment developed in partnership between Biogen and Genentech, though Biogen went to some pains this morning to make clear that their work with Samsung would not involve Rituxan or any of Biogen's therapies. Samsung has laid out plans to invest close to $2 billion in the biosimilar business in expectation of developing a new subsidiary that can earn roughly that amount annually in about a decade. "We are taking a significant step toward becoming a major player in the biopharmaceutical industry and investing in an important growth engine for our company," Samsung Biologics CEO Tae-han Kim said in the statement.

Scangos has made no secret of his own interest in biosimilars. He told Reuters last May he thought a follow-on biologics business could gin more than a billion dollars a year in revenue, adding that the right partner could shoulder sales and marketing while Biogen concentrated its efforts on the manufacturing end of the deal.

"The manufacturing facilities have costs to run them, so the more products you run through them, the more efficient they are," he told the news wire service. "To set ourselves up commercially could be a big distraction. I'd like a partner to take over that."

"This relationship will allow us to leverage our world-class protein engineering and biologics manufacturing capabilities, while maintaining focus on our mission of discovering, developing and delivering innovative therapies for patients worldwide with neurodegenerative diseases, hemophilia and autoimmune disorders," Scangos said in a statement. "We are very impressed with Samsung's track record of leadership and excellence in all their businesses and are excited to be working with them."

- get the Biogen-Samsung release
- here's the Bloomberg report

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