Biogen mulls strike back at Elan

Biogen says it's "reviewing its legal options" after Tysabri partner Elan slapped it with a lawsuit yesterday. Indeed. The companies are now in a pitched battle over the rights to the MS drug, never mind a recent spate of cases of PML, the potentially fatal brain infection that temporarily sent it to pasture in 2006.

Actually, Biogen appears to have started the legal tussle. In a letter sent last week, the company threatened to spike its deal with Elan and take complete control of Tysabri as soon as next month. Surely its lawyers took a look at that missive before it was sent. Grounds? Elan's recent $1.5 billion deal with Johnson & Johnson included a side provision on Tysabri rights, provided a Biogen buyout ever triggered Elan's right to snap up its partner's share. Biogen claims that deal violates the partnership terms.

As we reported yesterday, Elan sued in federal court to a.) protect its current Tysabri deal, and b.) protect its arrangement with J&J. And as Reuters now notes, that suit has Biogen's lawyers noodling their response. Might Biogen be worried that those buyout provisions could be triggered sometime soon? After all, the deal-happy Carl Icahn won two seats on the company's board earlier this summer. Might it also be resenting the fact that its poorer partner could actually finance a Tysabri buyout now, with J&J's help? Whatever the impetus, it'll make for an interesting fight.

- read the Reuters news
- see the story in the New York Times