ZURICH, March 30 Swiss specialty chemicals and
life sciences group Lonza is reviewing whether it is
still worth investing in its joint venture with Teva
in "biosimilar" drugs, its Chief Executive said.
The expiry of patents on expensive biotech medicines to
treat cancer and autoimmune diseases is opening up a new market
for lower-cost copies known as "biosimilars" because they are
not identical matches of branded medicines.
But uncertainty over the regulatory framework for such drugs
in the United States as well as the defence strategies from
innovator companies have caused delays and prompted some
developers to halt projects.
Lonza joined forces with Israel's Teva in 2009 to develop
biosimilars but suspended its late-stage trial for a biosimilar
version of Roche's drug MabThera last October to seek
input from regulators on how to proceed.
"A joint venture team is reassessing at the moment whether
our assumptions from 2009 are still correct," Richard Ridinger
said in an interview with Finanz und Wirtschaft published on
"I would like absolute clarity before we make a large
investment. The quality of decisions is more important than
Ridinger said the cost of developing biosimilars would be
"considerably more" than the 100 million Swiss francs ($105.60
million) per biosimilar assumed in 2009 and that Lonza wanted to
be completely clear how and whether they wanted to strengthen
"It's not clear if this business model, which we acted on in
2009, still works today," Ridinger said.
Asked whether the biosimilar project could cease to exist,
Ridinger said the company had not yet concluded its
evaluation.($1 = 0.9470 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; editing by Patrick Graham)