I am woefully late (almost two weeks!) in getting to this (and thanks go to one of my erstwhile anonymous commenters -- for reminding me to circle back to it!), but Merck's "venture-prenurial experiment" for bio-similar candidates has come to an whimpering end.
Merck BioVentures has been folded back into Merck Research Laboratories, and the head of the BioVentures effort has departed the company. [It is often true that big pharma finds small entreprenurial units don't fare well when left mostly inside the larger corporate fold. No, it seems that the more successful ones are completely spun-off from the mothership -- not left tethered -- hanging in black space, by the institutional umbilical cord. That latter model was certainly the impression I was left with -- when I visited the Merck BioVentures Boulder, Colorado facility some years ago.]
In any event, here's a bit of the InVivo Blog's story on it -- do go read it all:
. . . .There have been several bumps in the road. The company's first big biosimilar hopeful was a version of Amgen's Aranesp. That project was discontinued in early 2010. The company also had big plans for its biosimilar version of Enbrel, which it licensed in Phase III from Korea's Hanwha in June 2011. Only a few months later Amgen laid waste to those plans, announcing a 'stealth patent' that could keep Enbrel biosimilars off the market for another 15 years.
Biosimilars may indeed be a new kind of innovation, one that brand-focused biologics companies would be foolish to discount and one they seem to be tripping over themselves to embrace (see Amgen/Watson, Baxter/Momenta, Biogen/Samsung). . . .
Indeed. In addition, Merck's SEC Form 10-Q just filed this morning, and the number of NuvaRing (1,020 cases) and Fosamax (3,100 cases) lawsuits filed (at pages 19 and 21, respectively) are both up sharply over prior periods. More on that tomorrow.