Swiss biopharmaceutical company Serono has reported flat revenues of $638 million dollars in the third quarter of 2005, despite a 20% hike in sales of its multiple sclerosis drug Rebif (interferon beta-1a) to $316 million.

However, the year-on-year comparison suffered from a $67 million licensing payment received in the same period of 2004, and underlying product sales growth was in the region of 10%, coming in at $572 million, said the company.

Net income was down 10% $142 million, but came in ahead of analysts' expectations.

Serono's reproductive health portfolio suffered a downturn, with turnover dropping 4% in the quarter accounted for mainly by a 7% drop in sales of fertility treatment Gonal F (follitropin alpha). But the company's human growth hormone product Saizen (somatropin) put in a useful 15% increase to $51 million.

In dermatology, Serono's psoriasis product Raptiva (efalizumab) - licensed from Genentech/Xoma outside the USA and Japan - brought in $10 million, based on sales of the drug in its first ex-US markets. This is a 10-fold increase over the third quarter of 2004, but indicates that Serono still has some way to go before it can meet its sales targets for the drug of $250 million to $400 million [[14/10/05e]].

- Serono also said today that it has signed a deal for an exclusive license to develop and commercialise cancer drug candidates from Rigel's Aurora kinase inhibitor programme. Under the terms of the agreement, Rigel will receive initial payments totalling $25 million and could receive up to $160 million in milestone payments, plus any royalties.