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Merck extends biocatalysis collaboration with Codexis

Published on 29/05/12 at 10:32am
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Biocatalyst specialist Codexis has signed a three-year extension of its catalyst and process development collaboration with Merck to develop enzymes for use in pharmaceutical manufacturing. 

The collaboration between Codexis and Merck has already been ongoing for a number of years, with the two companies developing improved production processes for some of Merck's most important new products, such as Januvia (sitagliptin) for diabetes, asthma drug Singulair (montelukast) and  recently launched hepatitis C therapy Victrelis (boceprevir). 

Merck will continue to use Codexis' proprietary enzyme products to develop more cost- and resource-efficient manufacturing processes for its pipeline of therapeutic candidates. The initial agreement was announced in April 2007 and the latest extension means the companies will continue to work together to 2015. 

Peter Strumph, Codexis' interim chief executive, said that the collaboration has led to "a number of breakthroughs in pharmaceutical manufacturing that have been adopted by Merck in some of their leading pharmaceutical products". 

Codexis' revenues of around $31 million in the first quarter of 2012 were split roughly equally between sales of its catalysts and catalyst-derived products for use in pharmaceuticals manufacturing and collaborative R&D funding, and the extension of the Merck agreement will help support revenue growth in future as it tries to bring the business into profit. 

All told, the company's biocatalysts are used by around 50 pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Teva, but the lion's share of its revenue has traditionally come from an ongoing collaboration with Shell in the area of biofuels. One of the main drivers of growth in the first quarter was the sale of atorvastatin-related intermediates to generic drugmakers in the wake of the loss of patent protection for the compound. 

Codexis posted a net loss of around $7.5 million in the first quarter, and has been cutting staff in the US and Hungary in order to achieve savings of around $500,000 a year. It expects losses in 2012 to be in line with 2011.

Phil Taylor

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