Biogen Idec has posted its third-quarter results which reveal a 38% rise in profits, boosted by continuing strong sales of its multiple sclerosis blockbusters Tysabri and Avonex.

Net income came in at $351.8 million, while revenues increased 11% to $1.31 billion. Sales were again driven by Tysabri (natalizumab), partnered with Ireland’s Elan Corp, which brought in $277.3 million to Biogen's coffers, up 26%.

The company noted that by the end of the quarter, around 63,500 people were on commercial and clinical Tysabri therapy worldwide. Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration extended its review by three months of the supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) for the drug's label to include anti-JC virus antibody status as a factor to help stratify the risk of developing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, the rare but potentially fatal brain disease linked to Tysabri.

As for the company’s older MS drug Avonex (interferon beta-1a), sales climbed 6% to $681.7 million. The rheumatoid arthritis and cancer drug Rituxan (rituximab), partnered with Roche, brought in $266 million, up 3%.

Chief executive George Scangos said the quarter was one of "tremendous accomplishments for Biogen", noting the recent sets of positive data on the multiple sclerosis pill BG-12 (dimethyl fumarate). He added that this is "a truly meaningful development for our company", confirming that filings will take place in the first half of next year.

Portola pact could be worth over $550 million

Meantime, Biogen has linked up with Portola Pharmaceuticals to develop and commercialise novel oral Syk inhibitors for the treatment of various autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Under the terms of the deal, Biogen will make an upfront payment of $45 million, which includes $9 million for Portola equity. The latter could also pocket up to $508.5 million in various milestones. Worldwide costs and profits will be split 75%/25% in Biogen's favour.

The collaboration’s lead molecule, PRT062607, has been shown to be "a highly potent and specific oral inhibitor of Syk in a broad panel of in vitro kinase and cellular assays", the companies said. It is currently in Phase I.