(Corrects milestone payments in sixth paragraph to 800 million crowns from 800 crowns; corrects dateline to Feb 22)
COPENHAGEN, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Danish biotech drugmaker Genmab expects sales of Darzalex, used to fight cancer in bone marrow, to surpass $1 billion this year to become a blockbuster drug, the company said on Wednesday.
In fiscal 2016, the firm hiked its revenue and operating profit guidance six times on the back of the strong performance of Darzalex, which is currently approved to treat multiple myeloma. Drugs that generate at least $1 billion of annual revenue are known as blockbuster drugs.
Net sales of Darzalex, which was approved in November 2015 and is marketed by Johnson & Johnson (J&J), are now expected to reach between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion this year, up from $572 million in 2016, Genmab said.
Analysts, on average, believe Darzalex could generate as much as $1.18 billion revenue this year and $2.53 billion by 2020, according to data from Thomson Reuters Cortellis.
Shares in the Danish company have surged by more than 3,200 percent in the past five years as it has morphed from a cash-burning biotech into a profitable business with actual drugs on the market.
Genmab receives tiered royalties from J&J on its sales and expects to receive Darzalex royalties of 930 million to 1,100 million Danish crowns ($132-$156 million) and 800 million crowns in milestone payments this year.
Operating income for 2016 came in at 1.1 billion crowns and is expected in the range of 900-1,100 million crowns in 2017.
With a market capitalisation of $12 billion, Genmab is Europe’s second-biggest biotech company behind Actelion , although both still lag well behind U.S. groups like Gilead, Amgen and Celgene.
Genmab’s chief executive Jan van de Winkel has previously told Reuters he thinks Darzalex sales could surpass $10 billion a year if the drug is approved for a wider range of cancers.
($1 = 7.0497 Danish crowns)
Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle