TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Drugmaker Merck & Co. said Wednesday it will partner with a Korean joint venture company to develop and market multiple biosimilar drugs, which are like generic versions of expensive biologic drugs.
It's the latest move in the company's efforts to develop original and biosimilar biologic drugs.
Merck, the world's third-biggest drugmaker by revenue, said it's entered an agreement to work with Samsung Bioepis Co. Ltd. of Seoul, Korea, to produce "pre-specified" biosimilars. The companies aren't disclosing the individual biologic drugs they are targeting.
Samsung Bioepis, which has both biologic drug research and manufacturing capabilities, will handle all steps from laboratory and human testing of potential biosimilar drugs through getting them approved by government regulators. Merck, which operates in more than 140 countries, will handle marketing of any medicines approved.
Financial terms of the deal were not detailed, but Samsung Bioepis will get an upfront payment from Merck and payments for meeting milestones in testing and seeking approval for any drugs. Merck, the maker of blockbuster Type 2 diabetes drug Januvia, will then buy any finished products from its partner and resell them around the world.
"We look forward to this collaboration and its potential to complement our expanding internal biologics portfolio," Rich Murray, head of biologics and vaccine research at Merck Research Laboratories, said in a statement.
In late afternoon trading, Merck shares rose 40 cents to $42.62.
Biosimilars are medicines that are similar, but not quite identical, to older biologic drugs — injectable medicines that are "manufactured" in living cells rather than by mixing chemicals together in vats to create traditional pills.