Amgen is linking up with Watson Pharmaceuticals to develop several oncology antibody biosimilars.

Under the terms of the agreement, the US biotech major will assume primary responsibility for developing, manufacturing and initially commercialising the products, while Watson will put in up to $400 million in co-development costs and will share product development risks. Biosimilars from the collaboration are expected to be sold under a joint Amgen/Watson label and the latter will initially receive royalties and sales milestones.

The new partners say the pact "reflects the shared belief that the development and commercialisation of biosimilar products will not follow a pure brand or generic model, and will require significant expertise, infrastructure, and investment to ensure safe, reliably supplied therapies". They also noted that the collaboration will not make biosimilars of Amgen's proprietary biologic blockbusters such as the rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis drug Enbrel (etanercept) or the anaemia treatments Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) and Epogen (epoetin alfa).

Robert Bradway, Amgen's president, said "biosimilars provide an exciting long-term growth opportunity", while his counterpart at Watson, Paul Bisaro  says the collaboration places the firms in "an unparalleled position in the global biosimilars market by capitalising on best-in-class capabilities in both innovative biologics and specialty pharmaceuticals and generics".

He concluded by saying that "we believe that biosimilars are the next frontier in the evolution of the healthcare market".