Would Teva buy Korea's Celltrion to beef up in biosimilars? It wouldn't say no

Teva

Earlier this month, Teva agreed to pick up U.S. and Canadian rights to a pair of biosims from Korea’s Celltrion. But it might not stop with just two.

The generics giant may consider purchasing the Korean drugmaker itself, a Teva spokesman told Korean news source The Investor.

“We will continue to investigate such opportunities as we balance risk and seek complementary skills in our partners,” he said.

It’s not the first time the idea has come up. Back in early 2014, when Celltrion was planning to sell a controlling stake in the company, Teva’s name popped up in deal rumors--along with those of peers AstraZeneca and Roche.

Why all the interest? Celltrion’s biosim plans are beginning to come to fruition. Along with partner Pfizer, it already boasts an FDA-approved copy of Johnson & Johnson blockbuster Remicade waiting for the green light to launch in the U.S.

And there’s more where that came from. It’s working on versions of Roche oncology giants Rituxan and Herceptin, too--and it granted Teva North American rights to those biosims in a $160 million pact sealed in early October.

Teva CEO Erez Vigodman in particular has highlighted biosimilars as a key component of the Israeli drugmaker's strategy. But the company has already struck out once in the field: In 2013, one-time biosim partner Lonza backed out of the pair’s 2009 agreement after development and marketing costs piled up.

Meanwhile, Vigodman has also been talking up branded buys since Teva wrapped up its $40 billion Allergan generics buyout. Teva will be looking out for “attractive specialty assets, or branded drug assets or pipeline assets” that fit in with the therapeutic areas it’s already tackling, including pain, neurodegenerative disease and respiratory disorders, Vigodman said in August. 

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