Sandoz taps Evotec in long-term biosimilar development and manufacturing deal

As Novartis’ Sandoz unit prepares to go it alone, the off-patent medicines specialist is buckling up for the biosimilars long haul.

Sandoz on Tuesday struck an accord with Just – Evotec Biologics to develop and manufacture biosimilar candidates over a multiyear stretch. The deal, which includes an “option for expansion,” marks the latest step in Sandoz’s quest to strengthen itself as a standalone company, the generics unit said in a release.

The companies did not say how much they are paying for the deal.

Last summer, Novartis telegraphed plans to spin off Sandoz. The decision came as part of a wider strategic review at the company that kicked off in October 2021. As of last August, the spinoff was expected to wrap up in the second half of 2023.

Under its latest pact, Sandoz will get its hands on Just – Evotec Biologics’ drug substance development platform and manufacturing technology. Sandoz will use that tech to expand its current pipeline of biosimilars from 15 to about 24 candidates

Further, Sandoz will leverage the deal to continue to hone its early-stage biosim pipeline, the company said.

Just – Evotec sports what Sandoz calls an “optimized proprietary ecosystem” for drug development and manufacturing. Specifically, the Evotec subsidiary boasts an advanced continuous manufacturing process, which, despite its freshness, is an “already well-established technology which delivers enhanced quality and productivity in biologics production,” Sandoz said.

Sandoz has been pumping up its biosimilars business over the past few months. Recently, the company boosted investments in its Holzkirchen, Germany, site to create a core biopharma technical development hub aimed at future biosimilar growth. Prior to that move, the company pledged at least $400 million for a new biologics plant in Slovenia, also aimed at biosimilars.

The biologics plant, which will be situated in Lendava, is set to kick off construction this year. The plant should be ready to roll by late 2026, Sandoz has said.

While biosimilars form a standard alternative to branded medicines overseas, the drugs have failed to catch on as readily in the U.S. Still, a biosimilar boom could be looming, with six new biosim products approved by the FDA in 2022 alone. Further, the first of more than half a dozen biosimilars to AbbVie’s megablockbuster Humira entered the fray at the start of 2023.