Alvotech said today it will spend $250 million toward developing and manufacturing a portfolio of biosimilar monoclonal antibodies, expanding a portfolio of biosimilar mAb molecules the company plans to bring to market by 2018.
That investment includes a new 11,800 square meter (about 127,000 square feet), fully vertically integrated biologics development and manufacturing facility, set to open in early 2016 at the science park of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. Alvotech plans to produce there its own developed biosimilars, the first of which are already in advanced development stage—though the company has yet to disclose the names of the molecules.
Alvotech is an independent sister company of the multinational pharmaceuticals company, Alvogen, which now markets biosimilars through alliances with Hospira and other partners, and has several pending marketing authorizations worldwide. The sister companies reason they can emerge as key biopharma players through their alliance, which combines Alvotech’s development and manufacturing excellence with Alvogen’s global marketing platform.
“Many of the world’s top-selling drugs are biologics, and exposure to biopharmaceuticals has become an important growth engine for Alvogen. The alliance with Alvotech will allow us to leverage our global commercial network in over 30 countries and is an important step for both companies toward becoming leaders in the biopharmaceutical industry. The partnership is a valuable addition to our current biosimilar business,” Robert Wessman, Alvogen’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
Wessman is a former CEO of generics giant Actavis, which kept its name even after its acquisition last year by Watson Pharmaceuticals, and heads a firm which took a 30% stake in Alvogen that it later raised to 40%. Alvogen develops, manufactures, and distributes generic, brand, over-the-counter, and biosimilar drugs through commercial operations in more than 30 countries. North America is Alvogen’s single largest market; other key markets include South-Korea, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, and China.
Alvotech is positioning itself as open for partnerships and licenses for its global biosimilar assets, hoping to draw partners by offering access to its biologics manufacturing capabilities contract manufacturing for biologics, and in-house clinical capabilities as it commercializes its own developed biosimilar pipeline. Alvotech’s CEO, Andreas Herrmann, Ph.D., is a former CEO of Baliopharm and Celonic in Switzerland.
Alvotech is headquartered in in Reykjavik. The “Land of Fire and Ice” may not have as many drug developers or research universities as Europe’s larger bioclusters such as in Germany and the United Kingdom, but Iceland has made some big splashes in biotech, the most familiar to Americans probably being the success of deCODE Genetics, which overcame bankruptcy protection from creditors to build alliances with big pharmas before Amgen snapped up the company for $415 million, in a deal announced in December 2012.
Alvotech and Alvogen say Iceland offers the advantages of a strong regulatory system, low operating costs, a great talent pool, high quality standards, and a convenient geographical location between the European Union and United States that is within easy reach of the rest of the world.