Genzyme Corp has presented more promising data on its investigational multiple sclerosis treatment alemtuzumab, a drug which played a pivotal role in the firm getting a higher price from acquirer Sanofi-Aventis.

In February, the French drugmaker upped its $18.50 billion offer to $20.1 billion and also agreed a tradable 'contingent value right', entitling Genzyme shareholders to payments linked to the success of alemtuzumab, which will be sold as Lemtrada, for MS; it is already approved, as Campath, for B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Now, additional five-year data from a completed Phase II trial, presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Hawaii, shows that nearly two-thirds of MS patients in the study remained free of clinically-active disease as much as four years after receiving their last course of Lemtrada.

The original trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008, compared alemtuzumab with Merck KGaA's big-selling Rebif. The new five-year data shows that 65% of patients were free of clinically-active disease, compared to 27% on Rebif, while 72% of alemtuzumab-treated patients were relapse-free compared to 41% for Rebif.

The analysis also found that alemtuzumab patients were more than twice as likely to experience sustained improvement in vision, a common complication of MS, compared to Rebif. Two Phase III studies on Lemtrada are underway and filings in Europe and the USA in early 2012. Alemtuzumab has been granted fast track status by the Food and Drug Administration.

Dermatology sale could bring in 300 million euros

Meantime, Sanofi is looking to sell off its US dermatology business and pocket as much as 300 million euros.

Bloomberg, citing two people with knowledge of the matter, says that the first round of offers were submitted last week and Deutsche Bank is handling the sale. The sources claim that private equity groups are the most likely buyers for the dermatology division, which was formerly known as Dermik Laboratories and whose products include Sculptra (injectable poly-L-lactic acid), a filler to correct wrinkles and other effects of facial fat loss.

The two sources told the news agency that a sale could bring in 200-300 million euros, but claimed the valuation has been hurt due to the introduction of generic versions of the acne treatment BenzaClin (clindamycin/benzoyl peroxide).

Sanofi confirmed to Bloomberg that it is "exploring strategic alternatives for the US dermatology business in keeping with its strategy to reallocate resources to high-growth areas including diabetes, oncology and atrial fibrillation”.