Biocad, a Russian biotechnology company that’s trying to copy some of the world’s top-selling cancer medicines, is seeking a buyer, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter.
Biocad may be valued at as much as $1 billion, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks are private. A second person estimated its value at closer to $750 million. The closely held St. Petersburg-based company hired William Blair & Co. to organize the sale process, which is in its final stages, one of the people said.
U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc (PFE) (PFE). and Amgen Inc (AMGN)., the world’s biggest biotechnology company, are two of three remaining bidders, one of the people said. Like Biocad, both U.S. companies are working on so-called biosimilars, which are copies of branded biological drugs.
“Biocad has a great pipeline and is very aggressive in the market,” David Melik-Guseinov, a Moscow-based partner at Pharm CIS consultancy, said in a telephone interview today. “Maybe they are seeking funds for growth as they need to do a lot of clinical tests for their drugs.”
Biocad is recruiting patients for studies of copies of Roche Holding AG (ROG)’s (ROG) three biggest-selling drugs, the cancer medicines Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin, according to the U.S. website Clinicaltrials.gov.
The company, founded in 2001, also makes cancer chemotherapies, a drug to fight genital infections and three medicines to treat viral infections, according to its website. It sells a copy of a multiple sclerosis medicine.
Biocad is “well-positioned” in the Russian market and often outbids global pharmaceutical companies in government tenders, Melik-Guseinov said. Russia spends about $5 billion a year on state drug purchases.
About $1 billion “seems to be a fair price” for the company, the analyst said. Roche and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA), the biggest maker of generic drugs in the world, may also be interested in buying Biocad, he said.
The Russian company already has a history of joint projects with New York-based Pfizer. The two companies began collaborating on student education in St. Petersburg in 2011. Last year, they signed an agreement to produce a drug for hemophilia, business news agency PRIME cited Biocad founder and Chief Executive Officer Dmitry Morozov as saying. Morozov, a former banker, declined to comment through a spokeswoman.
“As a matter of practice, we don’t comment on market rumors or speculation,” Joan Campion, a Pfizer spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. Amgen doesn’t “speculate on acquisitions,” Ashleigh Koss, a spokeswoman for the Thousand Oaks, California-based company, said by phone.
Roche declined to comment on the speculation, said Daniel Grotzky, a spokesman for the Basel, Switzerland-based drugmaker. The company is focused on innovation and has no intention to develop biosimilars, he said. Teva doesn’t comment on market rumors, the Petach Tikva, Israel-based company said by e-mail.
OAO Gazprombank acquired a controlling stake in the drugmaker in 2011 in a deal that valued the company between $250 million and $300 million, according to Russian newspaper Vedomosti. While Morozov remains a co-owner of the company, Gazprombank controls it, Morozov’s spokeswoman confirmed, asking not to be named according to company policy. Ekaterina Trofimova, a spokeswoman for Gazprombank, declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for William Blair didn’t respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment.