In 2019, Biogen upped its stake in the South Korean biosimilar joint venture, cementing its commitment to biosimilar manufacturing and commercialization. Today, however, Biogen has seemingly reversed course—though it is not exiting the biosimilar arena.
In a January 27th press release, Biogen announced that it will sell its 49.9% ownership in Samsung Bioepis to its joint venture partner Samsung Biologics. The collaboration began 10 years ago. The equity sale, which could earn Biogen as much as $2.3 billion, does not affect Biogen’s current marketing commitments on Samsung Bioepis products in the US and Europe. Biogen has marketing rights to Samsung’s biosimilar versions of adalimumab, etanercept, and infliximab in Europe. In 2019, Biogen signed marketing commitments for the recently approved Byooviz™ (ranibizumab-nuna) and the investigational biosimilar SB15 (aflibercept) in the US. Organon markets the approved biosimilars Renflexis® and Ontruzant®. Biogen also has an agreement with Bio-Thera to market a tocilizumab biosimilar (BAT1806) should that eventually be approved by the FDA.
In 2018, Biogen paid Samsung BioLogics approximately $700 million for the option to increase its stake from 5.4% to nearly half ownership. It sounds like Biogen made a good profit on the deal: Upon closing, it will receive $1 billion, followed by $812.5 million a year later and $437.5 million a year beyond that.
It may be possible that this profit-taking is one ramification of the company’s Alzheimer’s drug launch (that is, failure to launch). In any case, the equity sale does not seem to affect Biogen’s commitment to the biosimilar industry: “We are thankful to Samsung Biologics for a productive collaboration since 2012,” according to Michel Vounatsos, Chief Executive Officer at Biogen. “We believe biosimilars are essential to help sustain healthcare systems and represent an important value creation opportunity for Biogen.”