Protalix signs with Pfizer on Gaucher's disease drug

Protalix will make up to $115 million on the deal and retain 40% of future revenues.

Shares in Protalix Biotherapeutics Inc. (AMEX:PLX) has signed a strategic agreement with Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE; LSE: PFZ), which will receive a license to market Protalix's treatment for Gaucher's disease. Protalix shares subsequently fell, nearer to the opening of trading.

Pfizer will make an upfront payment of $60 million to Protalix. In addition, Protalix is eligible to receive additional regulatory milestone payments of up to $55 million. Pfizer will have a 60% share and Protalix will have a 40% share in future revenues and expenses for the development and commercialization of taliglucerase alfa.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will receive exclusive worldwide licensing rights for the commercialization of taliglucerase alfa, while Protalix will retain the exclusive commercialization rights in Israel.

Israel is potentially a relatively large market for the treatment, because Gaucher's disease is a genetic disorder, found at disproportionately high rates among Ashkenazic Jews.

Pfizer, with a market cap of $146 billion, is the world's largest pharmaceutical company. Its drug development had mostly been in-house. In the past 20 years, partly due to market pressures, it has been collaborating with other companies, including Israeli ones. Pfizer's Israeli marketing branch has been strengthened, and the company has an agreement potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars with synthetic RNA molecules developer Quark Pharmaceuticals Ltd.. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is an investor in Quark.

Pfizer has also made a venture capital investment in Novocure Ltd., which is developing a treatment for brain tumors, and has research collaboration agreements with Israeli universities.

A delegation of Pfizer executives visited Israel last month, and toured Protalix's plant in Carmiel.

In mid-October, Protalix reported positive results in its US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Phase III clinical trial of its drug, called Uplyso, for the treatment of Gaucher's Disease. Uplyso, (taliglucerase alfa) was found to be safe, with no serious side effects. The company had to decide whether to market the drug independently or to seek a strategic partner, and it turns out that it opted for the second alternative.

Pfizer established products business unit president and general manager David Simmons said, “By combining our respective strengths to advance this innovative therapy, Pfizer and Protalix expect to quickly deliver an alternative treatment for people suffering from Gaucher’s disease. This agreement supports our goal to meet the needs of many patient populations, including those affected by rare diseases."

Taliglucerase alfa is the first enzyme replacement therapy derived from a proprietary plant cell-based expression platform using genetically engineered carrot cells.

Despite the news Protalix share fell nearly 10% at the opening in New York today to $8.91, giving a market cap of $688.43 million.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on December 1, 2009

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009

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