EUSA Pharma buys rights to Janssen rare disease drug

UK-based EUSA Pharma has bought worldwide rights to Janssen’s rare diseases drug Sylvant (siltuximab) for $115 million.

EUSA already markets two oncology drugs and is seeking to build its presence in the rare disease market with Sylvant, which has been approved in the US since 2014 to treat multicentric Castleman’s disease, caused by an abnormal overgrowth of cells of the lymph system.

Although not classified as a cancer, the disease acts very much like lymphoma and Sylvant is the only approved treatment for the condition in more than 40 countries worldwide including Europe.

The disease affects around 1,900 patients in the US and a similar number in Europe, and due to the small numbers of patients the drug has market exclusivity under orphan drug regulations in both territories.

EUSA bought worldwide rights to the drug from Janssen Sciences Ireland and says it plans to expand its availability into other countries.

While the drug does not produce significant sales for the Johnson & Johnson unit, EUSA has plans to relaunch it and develop it in other indications.

Sylvant is a monoclonal antibody that blocks the action of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a multifunctional cytokine detected at elevated levels in iMCD patients.

EUSA said it plans to develop Sylvant in additional indications where IL-6 blockade may be effective – such as cytokine release syndrome associated with chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy in cancer.

The company last month appointed Jeff Hackman, formerly acting CEO at rare disease company Novelion Therapeutics as president of its US operations.

EUSA’s team of 30 sales staff and medical science liaisons are undergoing training to relaunch the drug in the US this month.

EUSA will immediately relaunch through its European commercial and medical infrastructure, as well as expanding its operations into new territories, including the Republic of Korea, Canada and certain markets in South America and South East Asia.

Lee Morley, EUSA’s CEO (pictured above), said: “Sylvant is a perfect fit with EUSA’s oncology and rare disease focus, and provides the company with a major opportunity to continue its rapid growth. As the only approved treatment for the devastating disorder iMCD, we have ambitious plans to bring Sylvant to patients around the world.”

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