S.Korea's Samsung Bioepis developing biosimilar of Roche's Lucentis

SEOUL, June 2 (Reuters) - South Korea’s Samsung Bioepis Co Ltd is developing a lower-cost copy of Roche Holding AG’s eye drug Lucentis, a U.S. filing showed, revealing a previously undisclosed product in the biosimilar maker’s pipeline.

The unlisted unit of contract drug maker Samsung BioLogics Co Ltd plans to start phase 3 clinical trials for its copy of Lucentis, currently called SB11, in September, according to a filing in a clinical studies database maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Lucentis is used to treat eye conditions that can impair vision such as macular degeneration, which can lead to irreversible vision loss. It had 2016 sales of 1.41 billion Swiss francs ($1.5 billion).

Bioepis already sells biosimilars for blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drugs such as Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade and Amgen’s Enbrel, but SB11 is the first known drug in its portfolio that is not an autoimmune or oncology medication.

It declined to comment on its plans for its Lucentis copy.

The filing was first received by U.S. regulators on May 10. Drugmaker Biogen Inc is a minority shareholder in Bioepis. ($1 = 0.9683 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)