BioWorld International Correspondent

Polish biotechnology firm Bioton SA continued its expansion into Western Europe by picking up Swiss biosimilar drug developer BioPartners Holdings AG in a stock-based deal valued at $77.8 million. That total includes $15.8 million in BioPartners debt, as well as 81.5 million Bioton shares, valued at around PLN183.4 million (US$62 million).

"If you look at what Genentech paid for Altus, it's not so substantial," BioPartners Chief Financial Officer Walter H usermann told BioWorld International. His reference was to the recent partnering deal on a Phase II once-weekly version of HGH between South San Francisco-based Genentech Inc. and Cambridge, Mass.-based Altus Pharmaceuticals Inc., which could be worth up to $280 million. "Bioton got a pretty good deal," H usermann said.

BioPartners, which has its roots in the Darmstadt, Germany-based generic drug maker Merck KgaA, also has a sustained-release version of human growth hormone (HGH) in its pipeline, although it is still at least two years from a regulatory submission. A formulation of beta interferon, in development for multiple sclerosis, is on track for a European filing later this year.

The deal also gives Warsaw-based Bioton an additional foothold in the biologics drug market. Baar, Switzerland-based BioPartners obtained approval last year from the European Commission (EC) for Valtropin, its biosimilar - EC speak for biogeneric - version of the recombinant human growth hormone somatropin, which it co-developed with LG Life Sciences, of Seoul, South Korea. (See BioWorld International, May 10, 2006.).

BioPartners was formed in 2000 by Global Health Care Partners, a specialty group within the asset management business of Zurich, Switzerland-based Credit Suisse Group, and the private equity firm DLJ Merchant Banking Partners (which subsequently was acquired by Credit Suisse). H usermann declined to disclose the level of investment the company had secured during its independent existence, but it would shortly have become cash positive, he said.

The launch of Valtropin in the UK, where it will be distributed by Cambridge Laboratories Ltd., of Wallsend, UK, is imminent. Nycomed ApS, of Roskilde, Denmark, will sell the drug in Scandinavia and the Baltic region. The company is seeking additional partners to cover other European territories.

BioPartners will continue to operate from Baar as a subsidiary within Bioton. The core competence of the 17-person company, H usermann said, is in regulatory affairs. It outsources clinical development and manufacturing activities to third parties, although its new owner will be able to meet some of its manufacturing requirements.

Bioton was established in 1989 and gained a listing on the Warsaw Stock Exchange in March 2005. It manufactures recombinant insulin for export to countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America, as well as several antibiotics. The company holds more than 90 percent of the equity of Singapore-based biogeneric drug developer and vaccine manufacturer SciGen Ltd., which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

It entered agreements to buy two Italian firms last year, Pharmatex Italia Srl, of Milan, and Fisiopharma Srl, of Palomonte. Bioton reported net profit of PLN33.5 million on revenues of PLN213.9 million in 2006.