Itero, Seeking a “Biosimilar” That’s Better, Strikes Deal With Watson for Female Infertility

7/15/10Follow @xconomy

San Mateo, CA-based Itero Biopharmaceuticals, a small company seeking to make “biosimilar” treatments that provide an advantage over original biotech drugs, has found its first partner to help it develop a new product. The company has formed a collaboration with Morristown, NJ-based Watson Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: WPI) to develop a new treatment for female infertility.

Itero will get an undisclosed upfront fee, plus milestone payments, and a percentage of net sales or profits from around the world if Watson can bring Itero’s genetically engineered follicle stimulating hormone to the market. Watson has agreed to pay all the development, manufacturing, and marketing costs for the treatment, which hasn’t yet advanced to clinical trials.

The deal is an important one for Itero, a virtual company founded in 2007. Itero, led by CEO Bryan Lawlis, secured $12.3 million in its Series A venture financing from SV Life Sciences, Panorama Capital, and VenturEast. Watson is known as one of the leading makers of generic drugs, with $2.8 billion in revenue in 2009. The companies didn’t say much in their release today about the Itero drug’s differentiating feature, although follicle stimulating hormones are given to women seeking treatment for infertility, in order to stimulate ovulation. The worldwide market for such treatments is estimated to be $1.2 billion.

Biotech companies have been worried for years about “biosimilar” drugs that could pose a threat as cheaper alternatives to a pioneering biotech drug, but some companies are finding ways to put a more innovative twist on them. Itero doesn’t describe the follicle stimulating hormone specifically on its website, but it does say the company’s first product is a biosimilar drug “combined with a proprietary auto-injector system specifically designed to tailor the administration of that protein for its primary indications. This product offers significant commercial advantages over currently available pen injectors in terms of patient convenience, safety, and ease of use.”

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