July 14, 2017 / 7:30 AM / 13 days ago

Morphosys sees revenue boost from Janssen psoriasis drug

DUESSELDORF/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German biotech group Morphosys expects to receive royalties from psoriasis drug guselkumab for five months this year, its Chief Executive Simon Moroney said, after its licensee received U.S. regulatory approval.

"We hope to be able to say in the near future how much the royalties will amount to," Moroney told Reuters.

Licensee Janssen Biotech, part of Johnson & Johnson, said late on Thursday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved guselkumab, which it will market as Tremfya, to treat adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.

That brings Morphosys a step closer to seeing the first drug using its antibody technology launched on to the market, pushing its shares as much as 9 percent higher on Friday.

"While it was largely expected, this approval marks a turning point in Morphosys' story as it prepares to receive its first royalty stream," Berenberg analysts, who recommend buying shares in Morphosys, said in a note.

They see the drug taking 15 percent of the U.S. market for moderate to severe psoriasis at the expense of Janssen's existing Stelara, of Novartis's Cosentyx and Eli Lilly's Taltz.

Janssen said Tremfya, which is administered by injection, will be an alternative for patients who do not respond to existing treatments.

Morphosys has so far not yet said how much Janssen would owe it in royalties, noting only that payments would likely come to a medium single-digit percentage of sales.

Berenberg's analysts estimate that guselkumab could reach peak annual sales of about 3.2 billion euros ($3.65 billion) eventually, which would mean royalties of up to 185 million.

Morphosys' stock rose about 9 percent in early trade on Friday and were up 6 percent at 66.29 euros by 1350 GMT, having hit its highest level in almost two years.

According to CEO Moroney, royalties are not yet included in Morphosys 2017 guidance.

The group has so far said it expected its loss before interest and tax to widen to between 75 million and 85 million euros this year from about 60 million in 2016 as its costs for research and development rise.

Morphosys, founded in 1992, has more than 100 drugs in research and development, more than a dozen of which are undergoing Phase II and III clinical trials in partnership with drugmakers including Bayer, Novartis and Pfizer.

The company is due to publish second-quarter financial results on Aug. 3.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Susan Fenton/Keith Weir

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