Investors were treated to great news when Antares (AIS) announced that Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) had signed a license for "one of its drug deliveryy technologies to develop an undisclosed product on an exclusive basis for North America" (Ibid).
The undisclosed designation has led to a flurry of speculation including a gel formulation of Viagra, but certain factors remains undeniable. The undisclosed product that employs one of the company's drug delivery technologies is represented as mid- to late stage according to the Antares pipeline that was revised this week. For that reason, it most likely cannot be for an injector product, but it must be a product that has already undergone significant clinical development by Antares.
I speculate it could be a gel formulation for ropinirole and the applications most suited for use are restless legs syndrome [RLS] and Parkinson's disease among others. An excellent scholarly article on ropinirole can be found here.
In 2008, Antares had an active program with Jazz Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:JAZZ) for a gel formulation of ropinirole (JPZ-7), but by 2010, for strategic versus drug failure reasons, Jazz announced that it had chosen to forfeit its phase 3 development. This was after JZP-7 completed a successful phase 2 clinical trial. But under the terms of the license, it is most likely that the asset returned to Antares sometime after the summer of 2010, but this is unconfirmed. However, Oppenheimer just reported yesterday:
"On 12/20, AIS announced a licensing agreement with Pfizer's Consumer Healthcare Business Unit, relating to AIS's drug deliveryy technology to develop an undisclosed product. Although there is limited visibility around the undisclosed product's market potential, we believe additional details will be disclosed upon initiation of the phase III trial, which we expect to occur during 2012. Importantly, we estimate potential product commercialization in ~3-4yrs."
Thus, a ropinirole gel would fit phase 3.
Still, the potential value to Antares is interesting. The license extends only three years after the product, if successful, enters the market. That would imply that the deal is front-end loaded and that Antares could see a sizeable infusion of revenue. Here again, like the Anturol deal with Watson (WPI), the financial details were not disclosed.
Tuesday morning's announcement bodes very well for Antares. Now Pfizer joins the firm's partnership list that includes Watson, TEVA (NASDAQ:TEVA), Ferring, JCR, and Jazz . And think about it -- in 2H 2011, Antares had added two major pharmaceuticals: Watson and Pfizer -- I think that's incredibly amazing. It once again proves that the firm's growing revenue stream is being built on a portfolio of assets rather than the one-trick pony model that is so typical of many biotech start-ups. Instead, the company moved one step closer to net positive in 2012.
Disclosure: I am long AIS.