Saturday, January 18, 2014

Battle of Clones

Yesterday, Biocon India launched a 'new', cheaper breast cancer drug called CANMab

In India, breast cancer is the second-most common form of cancer after cervical cancer with 150,000 patients being diagnosed every year. The new drug, CANMAb, is priced about 25% lower than Roche's Herceptin.

For all practical purposes, this seems to be a copycat drug. Like Heceptin, CANMAb too disrupts HER2 protein production and is being marketed as a 'Biosimilar' to a monoclonal antibody called Transtuzumab.

So what does this mean in plain English?

An antibody is a "Y" shaped protein used by our body to identify and kill intruders like bacteria and viruses. Like matching pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a part of the Y-shaped protein identifies and 'locks' on to a unique part of a foreign target (called antigen). An intruder thus marked can then be destroyed by the immune system. Monoclonal antibodies are produced by identical immune cells and are exact replica's (clones) of the parent cell.

Biosimilars are substances derived from a living organism by techniques that use recombinant-DNA or controlled gene expression methods.

So Biocon India has essentially found a better, commercially more competitive method of producing monoclonal antibodies (MAb's), to take bite of the Swiss MNCs lobal market share ($6.4b globally and $21m in India), for an existing anti-cancer drug.


Heceptin from Roche -

Biocon Press Release -

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