Pfizer Withdraws from Repligen; Big Pharma Looks to SMA

Published Date : Feb 04, 2015

Pfizer needs to act quickly in order to convince its investors that it can manage to compete against Biogen Idec and Roche for a share in the spinal muscular atrophy market, according to market experts.

Pfizer’s share price fell by 10 per cent after Repligen announced that the U.S. drug maker had pulled out of a partnership focused on an SMA drug. The separation happened last week.

The withdrawal ended a collaboration that was established in December 2012. That was when Pfizer licensed the RG3039, a chemical that scales up the expression of the gene SMN, which is damaged in the case of patients afflicted by SMA.

According to the deal, Pfizer was to pay for a majority of the clinical development for RG3039. At the same time, Repligen had agreed to transfer the production technology to Pfizer.

According to many pharmaceutical market analysts, including Fiona Cincotta of Finspreads, said that the U.S. drug maker’s withdrawal from the partnership came as a surprise.

Fiona said that while the initial trials on the drug by Repligen were optimistic, the later tests towards the end of Phase I were not as convincing. Pfizer had already expressed their concern over the matter openly. The collaboration, however, looked as though it was still on track when Pfizer made a milestone payment of US$1 million to Repligen in Late January 2015.

She also raised questions regarding the choice made by Pfizer to withdraw amid the increasing levels of interest by Big Pharma over the SMA market. She said that SMA affects 1 in every 6,000 to 10,000 children, and the competitors are all looking for feasible SMA therapy methods to gain control of the valuable market share. This could mean a potentially bad decision made by Pfizer.