Regeneron inks a $325M deal, selling Asian rights to a pain treatment

Regeneron CEO Len Schleifer

Regeneron ($REGN) is handing off the Asian rights to its in-development musculoskeletal pain treatment for up to $325 million, handing the antibody over to a subsidiary of Japanese giant Mitsubishi.

Under the agreement, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma gets exclusive rights to fasinumab in Japan, Korea and 9 other Asian countries not including China. Regeneron is due $55 million up front plus as much as $170 million tied to development milestones and up to $100 million more depending on the antibody's future sales.

Fasinumab, in the midst of a Phase II/III osteoarthritis trial in the U.S., works by blocking nerve growth factor (NGF) to treat chronic pain. The whole field took a blow back in 2012 when the FDA spotlighted an alarming link between NGF inhibition and nervous system damage in animal studies, issuing a clinical hold that paused development programs for Regeneron, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), AstraZeneca ($AZN), and partners Pfizer ($PFE) and Eli Lilly ($LLY). The agency loosened its restrictions this year, allowing each company to get back to work.

Now Regeneron is again pushing forward with fasinumab, kicking off its latest osteoarthritis study over the summer. And looping in Mitsubishi gives the company the collaborator it needs to advance the antibody around the globe, CEO Leonard Schleifer said.

"MTPC has proven experience marketing biologics for rheumatology and pain management and thus is an ideal partner in Asia," Schleifer said in a statement. "We look forward to advancing our NGF program in the coming months with the goal of bringing this investigational therapy to patients in serious need."

- read the statement