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Bristol-Myers Squibb grabs option to Biocon's oral insulin amid diabetes growth

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In the event Biocon's experimental oral insulin proves to be a winner, Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) has a new option to snap up worldwide rights to the potential next-generation product outside India. The deal comes on the heels of World Diabetes Day, which reminded healthcare stakeholders that the growing epidemic threatens the health of millions of patients and economies around the globe.

Biocon, India's top biotech company, has agreed to handle development of its prandial oral insulin candidate, IN-105, through Phase II studies. If the trials go well, Bristol has the option to take over worldwide development of IN-105 and run commercialization everywhere but India, where Biocon keeps all rights. Biocon stands to gain a license fee, milestone payments and royalties from Bristol, but the Bangalore-based biotech didn't provide financial details.

Bristol now has dibs on a candidate that would bolster the company's growing franchise. The New York-based drug giant and partner AstraZeneca ($AZN) this week won European Commission approval to sell their SGLT2 inhibitor in a first-of-its-kind nod for a drug in that class that works outside of the insulin pathway to remove glucose from the body. Bristol also bolstered the business over the summer with its $5.3 billion buyout of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, a leading provider of the GLP-1 drugs Byetta and Bydureon, which are also partnered with AZ.

As Reuters reports, Biocon has been hunting for an alliance for the oral insulin program for two years and suffered a setback on the partnership front earlier this year when Pfizer ($PFE) dumped Biocon's injected insulin from its pipeline.

"This agreement is one huge step closer to realizing the dream of bringing oral insulin to market," Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman of Biocon (and one of Fierce's 2011 Top 10 Women in Biotech), stated. "We are excited to extend the excellent relationship we already enjoy with Bristol-Myers Squibb, and look forward to working closely with them to make this a reality."

Past attempts to advance non-injected insulin to the market have flopped, but new data show that some 371 million people around the world have the disease and drugmakers are advancing hundreds to experimental meds with the hope that new therapies can better control the disease.

- here's Biocon's release
- see Reuters' article

Special Report: Top diabetes drug pipelines of 2012

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