Industrial enzyme developer Codexis has had its supply contract extended by Merck & Co and been granted key patents for its Hep-C enzymes.
The extneded deal – financial terms of which were not disclosed – will see California, US-based Codexis continue to develop and supply Merck with enzymes and process development knowhow for the production of a range of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) through to 2015.
The news comes just weeks after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a production process for Merck’s diabetes drug Januvia , the API for which sitagliptin is made using enzymes developed by Codexis under the firms’ 2007 collaboration.
Peter Strumph, Codexis’ interim CEO, said: "Our collaboration with Merck has led to a number of breakthroughs in pharmaceutical manufacturing that have been adopted by Merck in some of their leading pharmaceutical products. We look forward to continuing to develop additional cost-advantaged manufacturing processes with Merck."
The extension is good news for Codexis which - earlier this month – suggested that expansion of its enzyme supply business with drugmakers would help it offset some of the margin pressure it has seen in its pharmaceutical intermediates business.
US Patent for Hep C
News of the Merck deal follows just days after Codex’s received a US patent - no 8,178,333 - covering biocatalysts and processes used to make pharmaceutical intermediates for hepatitis- C therapeutics.
Merck is also Codexis’ primary customer for these enzymes having called on the California firm to help it develop production processes for the Hep-C therapy Victrelis (boceprevir) in April.
Codexis' role in the project – according to a recent publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society – is to develop processes that improve yields, and reduce waste – or in simpler terms – improve Merck’s margins.
Victrelis – which was approved in the US in May last year and in Europe last July – generated $140m in 2011 despite only available for a few months and has long been tipped as a potential blockbuster .
And while no financial terms of the relationship have have been disclosed - Codexis' decision to highlight boceprevir - as well as sitagliptin and atorvastatin - as key drivers for 2012 suggest that it is likely to benefit if the Hep-C treatment does become a big seller.