WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck & Co. will start a new division to develop follow-on biologics, the drug maker announced Tuesday at its annual business briefing.
Merck BioVentures, will make follow-on versions of biologics, as well as innovative biologics. The new division will use Merck’s proprietary glyco-engineering technology to develop the drugs, which the company said represent a significant market opportunity due to a large number of patent expiries of leading biologic drugs set to occur through 2017. Merck acquired the engineering technology through its purchase of GlycoFi in 2006.
It plans to launch its first follow-on biologic, an anemia treatment called MK-2578, in 2012, when it hopes to have at least five follow-on biologic candidates in late-stage development.
“Merck Bioventures is uniquely positioned for success as a result of the humanized GlycoFi yeast platform, which has the potential to provide us with a competitive advantage at a time when the patents of many marketed biologic therapeutics are set to expire,” Merck Research Laboratiries executive vice president and president Peter Kim said.
Follow-on biologics, also known as biosimilars, are similar to innovative biologics, but not identical, though they are often mistakenly called “generic biologics.”