Pfizer has boosted its bid to expand in emerging markets as well as in biosimilars by getting access to market four insulin products being made by India's Biocon.

 Under the terms of the deal, Pfizer is paying an upfront fee of $200 million to Biocon. The latter, described by the drugs giant as "Asia's premier biotechnology company", is also eligible to receive development milestones of up to $150 million, as well as payments linked to Pfizer's sales of biosimilars of Sanofi-Aventis' Lantus (insulin glargine), Novo Nordisk's NovoRapid (insulin aspart), and Eli Lilly's Humalog (insulin lispro), plus a recombinant human insulin product.

In return, Pfizer is getting global rights to sellt he products, except in certain countries where the firms may co-market, eg Germany, India and Malaysia. The US major will also co-market with Biocon's existing licensees in certain emerging countries.

Biocon will remain responsible for the clinical development, manufacture and supply of these biosimilars, as well as for regulatory activities to secure approval.  Its recombinant human insulin formulations are approved in 27 countries in developing markets (and sold in 23), while its version of Lantus has been launched in India.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, managing director of the Bangalore-headquartered firm, said the deal is "a significant inflection point in our globalisation path". She added that Pfizer "brings brand strength and a vast and unrivalled global marketing network".

David Simmons, head of Pfizer's Established Products Business Unit, said the alliance "will enable the delivery of biosimilar insulin products, providing attractive, cost-effective treatment options to more diabetes patients". He added that the collaboration "supports our stated efforts to become a strong player in follow-on biologics as well as in the diabetes disease area".

Pfizer noted that the 2010 market for diabetes drugs and devices is estimated at $40 billion with insulins accounting for $14 billion of that. By 2015, "a number of insulin analogues are expected to lose patent protection," the firm said, "resulting in a significant opportunity for the biosimilars market". As such,  Pfizer and Biocon "expect to be well-positioned to be first movers in this potentially large market opportunity".