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Dr. Reddy's Laboratories: In licensing pact with Eisai for skin cancer drug

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Dr. Reddy's Laboratories has formed a licensing pact with Japan's Eisai to develop and market its experimental skin-cancer drug in the U.S., Europe and some emerging markets, marking the latest in a string of partnerships India's second-largest pharmaceutical company has forged to expand its drugs portfolio.

The Indian firm has in the last few months been striking deals with a number of global companies, building an arsenal of original drugs and bio-similars, copies of expensive biotech drugs, aside from its bread-winner generics. It is betting big on original drugs, focused on two therapeutic areas -- dermatology and neurology.

     Under the latest deal, Dr. Reddy's will pay the Japanese pharmaceutical company an undisclosed amount for exclusive rights for its investigational, anti-cancer agent E7777 across the world, barring Japan and Asia, the Indian drug maker said in a statement to the stock exchanges.

     Eisai will be responsible for developing and marketing the drug in Japan and Asia, while Dr. Reddy's will hold the option for rights to develop and market the agent in India, it said.

     Dr. Reddy's said it will pay Eisai upon achieving certain milestones, including approvals for marketing and some sales targets.

     "E7777 has significant potential as an important component of systemic therapy for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma," said Raghav Chari, executive vice president for the proprietary products division of the company. "This therapy represents an extension of our current efforts in the dermatology space to an important segment of skin-related cancers."

     Eisai is currently doing a mid-stage study of the agent in patients with skin cancer in Japan. It is also in the process of doing a final stage study in the US.

     Eisai had in 2003 sued Dr. Reddy's along with Israel's Teva Pharmaceuticals, seeking to stop them from selling a generic version of its acid reflux drug. In 2007, a U.S. court had upheld Eisai's patent forcing Dr. Reddy's stop the sale of its generics.

     Earlier this week, Dr. Reddy's inked a licensing pact worth up to $490 million with U.S.' Xenoport to develop and commercialize the biotech firm's clinical stage oral formulation drug to treat psoriasis and multiple sclerosis. Earlier this month, it tied up with a Turkey firm TR-Pharm to make and sell biosimilars, digging its heels in the lucrative business of biosimilars in emerging markets.

     Last month, it won approval from the U.S. regulator for two of its original drugs Zembrace and Zenavod, used to treat migraine and skin disorders. It also has three new drug applications filed for therapy in dermatology and neurology in the U.S.

     These partnerships come at a time when the company grapples with regulatory issues. The U.S. drug regulator had late last year warned Dr. Reddy's about quality issues and data management practices at three of its local manufacturing facilities. The regulator refused to give approvals for drugs made at the plants, which accounted for 10%-12% of its sales.

     The company's shares rose 0.72% to 3,034.90 rupees in Mumbai trading on Thursday, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex closed 0.01% higher.

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