Obinutuzumab/GA101, Roche and Biogen Idec

The drug: Obinutuzumab/GA101
The disease: Cancer
The developers: Roche, Biogen Idec
Peak sales potential: $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion. Evaluate Pharma has estimated a peak around $2 billion, far below Rituxan's lofty heights.

The scoop: What do you do when you have a blockbuster drug like Rituxan with a multibillion-dollar franchise? Come up with a better drug before the biosimilar competition can come along.

More details on this drug will come out at ASH in December, but it's already delivered positive top-line late-stage data in a showdown with Rituxan and has also been picked as a "breakthrough therapy" at the FDA. Roche has high hopes for an approval soon to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Biogen Idec ($BIIB) is partnered on the therapy with Genentech.

GA101 could be outperforming Rituxan because its sugar molecules have been engineered in such a way that the therapy helps spur the immune system into action against tumors. Like Rituxan, the experimental drug also targets CD20 to directly assault cancer cells.

One of the reasons analysts expect good things from GA101 is the caliber of the companies involved here. The treatment was discovered in Roche's Swiss R&D group. Roche has the best cancer drug experts in the business. And Biogen Idec has improved its own R&D game while proving no slouch at marketing.

For more:
Special Reports: John Reed sets out on a long-distance run at Roche's pRED | Top 10 experimental cancer drugs - 2013
Roche lung cancer drug bags another 'breakthrough' at the FDA
Roche highlights more upbeat PhIII data for 'breakthrough' leukemia contender

Obinutuzumab/GA101, Roche and Biogen Idec
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