Regeneron, Bayer reach for the old Eylea magic with combo AMD deal

Partners Regeneron ($REGN) and Bayer are hoping to piggy-back on their success with the wet age-related macular degeneration blockbuster Eylea, reuniting to develop a new drug that could become part of a combination therapy for the disease.

Under the deal, Bayer will fork over $25.5 million up front and up to $40 million in milestones to help advance Regeneron's antibody for platelet-derived growth factor receptor beta (PDGFR-beta). The duo will split the costs of development, with Bayer taking ex-U.S. commercialization rights and handing over half the profits to Regeneron, while the Tarrytown, NY, biotech keeps stateside rights for itself.

As for the drug, preclinical work suggests a cocktail pairing a PDGFR-beta inhibitor with the VEGF-blocking Eylea can improve outcomes for wet AMD patients, Regeneron said, and the two companies hope to develop a single intravitreal injection containing both. The combo is lined up for first-in-human studies in the early part of this year, the partners said.

"Given the multi-factorial nature of wet AMD, there is a potential for additional benefits to patients by addressing different pathways responsible for this devastating condition," Bayer development chief Kemal Malik said in a statement. "Inhibition of PDGF is one such pathway, and we are looking forward to developing a potential combination therapy together with Regeneron."

Bayer's interest in Regeneron's latest ophthalmology idea comes as little surprise considering the success of their last team-up. Eylea has blossomed into one of the industry's fastest-growing drugs since its launch in November 2011, hauling in more than $1 billion in the first 9 months of last year after clearing about $562 million in the same period in 2012.

That banner success has allowed Regeneron to double down on R&D, and the biotech is in the process of building out a 300,000-square-foot research outpost on its New York campus. Among the company's promising pipeline treatments are sarilumab for rheumatoid arthritis and alirocumab, a PCSK9-blocker developed in tandem with Sanofi ($SNY).

- read the statement