* Basilea wins European backing for superbug antibiotic
* Company in talks to partner ceftobiprole
* Shares surge 10.8 percent pre-market
* In talks over U.S. backing
ZURICH, Oct 23 Swiss biotech group Basilea
said it is in talks with potential partners for its
superbug antibiotic ceftobiprole, after the treatment won
backing from the European regulator to treat hospital and
"We are actively discussing with potential partners, now
that the regulatory risk is gone and the drug can be sold in
Europe with some additional phases like national licensing,"
Basilea's chief executive officer Ronald Scott told journalists
on a call on Wednesday.
Earlier, the Basel-based firm said ceftobiprole was given
the green light by European regulators to treat MRSA, the
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus which is estimated
to kill some 20,000 people every year in the United States.
CEO Scott said Basilea is looking to exceed the 200 million
Swiss francs ($223.40 million) in annual revenue of similar
antibiotics with a narrower treatment range, but did not
Bank J. Safra Sarasin estimates the antibiotic could
generate peak sales of 500 million francs as a treatment for
hospital- and community-acquired pneumonia.
Basilea's shares surged in pre-market indications following
the news, which follows several stumbling blocks for the
antibiotic, including Basilea's falling out with original
partner Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
At 0621 GMT, the stock was indicated 10.8 percent higher at
91 Swiss francs. Trading in Zurich resumes at 0700 GMT.
The emergence of hospital superbugs such as MRSA has
increased the need for new effective treatments and refocused
attention on antibiotics.
After J&J decided not to back the drug and expressed doubts
about the reliability of trial results, a Dutch arbitration
tribunal in 2010 ordered the U.S. drugmaker to pay Basilea about
$130 million for lost milestone payments and damages.
Basilea is still struggling with U.S. backing for the drug,
and said on Wednesday that ongoing talks with the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration centre on being able to submit the
antibiotic without costly additional trials.
Basilea expects the antibiotic to reach the European market
in three to five months, after it is licensed nationally and has
clinched pricing approval, which is done country-by-country.
The superbug antibiotic's backing eclipses progress Basilea
made on another drug, isavuconazole, earlier this year. The
antifungal treatment won "orphan" drug status in the United
States, which analysts estimate could be worth up to 150 million
francs annually if it reaches the market.
Basilea has gone through a series of shake-ups this year,
including the departure of its chief financial officer just two
months after that of the firm's founder and chief executive.