Will Protalix remain independent?

The Pfizer deal will enable Protalix to develop other products and drug platforms.

Protalix Biotherapeutics Inc. (AMEX:PLX) president and CEO Dr. David Aviezer has said several times in recent months that the company wants to position itself as an independent biotechnology firm rather than being acquired, unless it was made an offer that it could not refuse.

Today's strategic cooperation agreement with Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE; LSE: PFZ), which will receive exclusive worldwide rights to market Protalix's treatment for Gaucher's disease, Uplyso, puts Protalix in an excellent position to meet its promise. It will keep all its manufacturing activity as well as marketing rights to Uplyso in Israel, which will give the company marketing experience while learning from Pfizer, an ultimate teacher.

Protalix could make at least $115 million in 2010 from the deal, proceeds that it can use to invest in its current products under development and drug development platform.

Protalix chairman Eli Hurvitz is one of the men behind the company's decision to fight for independence. He has kept his word to the market to give Protalix's management a free hand, made when he invested in the company, and Protalix did not sign a deal with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA), where Hurvitz is also chairman.

The irony is that the market attention and the backing given by a company like Pfizer could result in Protalix receiving an offer that it cannot refuse.

Barely two weeks ago, "Globes" reported that Pfizer had not yet hooked up in any meaningful way with the Israeli biopharmaceutical industry. As it turns out, the report came out even as Pfizer was finalizing its deal with Protalix.

Pfizer's executives are well aware of the potential of the Israeli biopharmaceutical industry, although they had not displayed the kind of enthusiasm shown by its peers. The Protalix deal may be start of a beautiful relationship between Pfizer and Israel.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 1, 2009

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

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