Regeneron touts its allergy drug as a blockbuster in waiting

Regeneron Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos

While Eylea brings in the money and the cardio contender alirocumab grabs the headlines, Regeneron ($REGN) believes one of its less heralded pipeline treatments could eventually outgrow both, treating the underlying cause behind a handful of chronic diseases.

Dupilumab works by blocking interleukin-4 and interleukin-13, both key to inflammation, and Regeneron is pursuing an ambitious clinical strategy to test whether tamping down those proteins can relieve asthma, eczema and nasal polyps. If successful, the company will have proven a functional link between each of the inflammatory conditions, and it'll have just the method to treat them.

So far, things are looking good. In Phase IIb data released this summer, dupilumab significantly cleared the skin of patients with severe eczema, and the drug previously performed well in mid-stage trials on uncontrolled asthma. Now Regeneron and partner Sanofi ($SNY) are rolling the drug into its first Phase III trial, in eczema, beginning a late-stage process that could land the company its next blockbuster.

"We have a lot of debate within the company as to which of our many programs is the most exciting, and a lot of people are voting on dupilumab," Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos told Reuters.

Among the other contenders is alirocumab, another Sanofi-partnered treatment that's gearing up to contend with offerings from Amgen ($AMGN) and Pfizer ($PFE) in the soon-to-be market for drugs that slash bad cholesterol by blocking a gene called PCSK9. The injectable antibody was widely considered second in line behind Amgen until Regeneron and its French compatriot took advantage of a regulatory wrinkle that will speed up the drug's FDA review, setting up alirocumab for marquee billing and an estimated sales peak north of $1 billion.

Behind that is sarilumab, a Sanofi-shared rheumatoid arthritis treatment that works by halting the IL-6 receptor to tamp down inflammation. The partners disclosed some strong Phase III results earlier this summer and expect to report results from their 6-study late-stage program next year, targeting regulatory applications after that.

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