Irish drug firm Elan and biotech heavyweight Biogen Idec are tussling over the rights to the multiple sclerosis (MS) drug Tysabri.
The two firms have had a profitsharing
agreement for Tysabri in
place since 2000.
On 2 July, however, Elan
announced a $1bn equity investment
by an affiliate of Johnson & Johnson
for 18.4% of the company.
Biogen Idec claims the move is
grounds for terminating the Tysabri
agreement. In a letter to Elan on 28
July, it asserted that the deal with
Johnson & Johnson is in material
breach of its profit-sharing agreement
because the money could be used to
purchase Biogen Idec’s Tysabri rights,
if Biogen underwent a change of
control in the future.
It is thought that the original
Tysabri agreement can be terminated
if the terms are broken by,
for example, unilateral delegation
On 6 August, Elan said it had
filed a declaratory suit in a US
Federal court against Biogen Idec,
arguing that it has not broken the
terms of its Tysabri agreement with
Biogen Idec, and asking the Court
to prevent Biogen from terminating
the agreement based on the 28 July
‘This is the same agreement we
have been operating under for the
last nine years. It is unfortunate that,
because of Biogen Idec’s actions,
Elan was left with no alternative but
to seek court intervention to protect
its interest,’ said Elan in a statement.
Elan notes that Biogen Idec
made the assertions even though
it was not in possession of the
Johnson & Johnson agreement at
the time, and says it has offered to
share with Biogen Idec the details
of that agreement.
Tysabri (natalizumab), a
monoclonal antibody, was approved
in November 2004. The drug was
widely expected to become a
blockbuster thanks to its superior
efficacy compared with other MS
therapeutics. But Tysabri was
withdrawn from the market in
February 2005 after it was linked
with a deadly neurological condition.
But with MS patients still clamouring
for the drug, Tysabri has been back
on the market since June 2006, and
generated $254m in the second
quarter of 2009 alone.