The Boston Globe Drug nets $284m for MGH Foreign royalty sale is second Enbrel windfall By Christopher Rowland, Globe Staff | April 19, 2007
Massachusetts General Hospital yesterday sold its rights to royalties on foreign sales of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel for $284 million, a move that eliminates its exposure to market risk and will help it build a research endowment.
The sale to Drug Royalty Corp. Inc., a Toronto investment company, follows the settlement of a patent dispute last year between Mass. General and Enbrel's maker, Amgen Inc., which yielded $248 million for the hospital. In that settlement, Mass. General relinquished rights to royalties on Enbrel sales in the United States.
Mass. General chief executive Dr. Peter Slavin said yesterday that the combined $532 million, plus previous royalties from Enbrel sales, make the drug the biggest generator of licensing revenue in the hospital's history.
"Lightning occasionally strikes in this area," Slavin said.
The deals have also made a rich man of biologist Brian Seed, the Mass. General researcher whose discoveries were crucial to Enbrel's development.
Seed discovered a way to fuse proteins that act as decoys. Enbrel researchers used that technique for arthritis, blocking the body's inflammatory response to arthritic joint tissue.
Seed received $62 million from last year's settlement and $71 million from yesterday's sale. Those payouts represent 25 percent of the two deals' total, a standard share for inventors under the hospital's licensing arrangements.
Worldwide sales of Enbrel in 2006 were $4.4 billion, including $2.9 million in the United States. Mass. General and Seed could have expected to receive tens of millions of dollars a year in ongoing royalties, but the hospital decided to sell its remaining rights to protect it from market changes that could potentially cut into Enbrel sales, Slavin said.
Enbrel, which has also been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat psoriasis, faces competition from Abbott Laboratories' Humira and Centocor Inc.'s Remicade.
"We certainly believe in the product, but there are market forces that you need to consider," said Frances Toneguzzo , director of technology licensing at Mass. General.
"There's an issue with biologics," Toneguzzo continued. "They are very expensive, there are reimbursement issues, it is injected. If there is a small molecule that would do the same thing and you could take it orally, that would be the end of Enbrel."
Building an endowment with proceeds from the sale of royalty rights will help cushion the hospital's research budgets from flat or declining National Institutes of Health funding, Toneguzzo said.
After Seed's share as inventor is subtracted, the hospital's net is $186 million from the Amgen settlement and $213 million from the sale of foreign royalty rights.
Slavin said the $213 million will be divided evenly between Seed's department, molecular biology; the hospital's center for computational biology; and its central coffers.
I am tired of hearing about the flat or declining budget of NIH. Until recently there had been huge increases in the budget to the point that in only a few years it had doubled. Is there no end to the whining for more money from researchers? Are we getting enough benefit out of them for the funding they get from our tax dollars? Not sure we are. If you take lyme disease as an example, the money is too often spent to enforce an erroneous view of the disease.
Wondering how many people who actually have lyme disease have been told they have rh ar and are being sold this drug. It certainly raises questions about having a vested interest in certain diagnoses, to the exclusion of others. As we know, there is a certain rheumatologist at Mass Gen who likes to exclude lyme disease diagnoses whenever possible.
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