Amarin (Nasdaq: AMRN ) was up as much as 17% after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office posted a "Reasons for Allowance" for multiple patents the biotech has sought to cover its lipid drug, AMR101.
That's patent-speak for "going to be approved." And given that AMR101 is Amarin's only drug and on the verge of approval next month, it's understandable that the patent would add $150 million to the market cap of the company. Keeping generic copy cats at bay until 2030 is certainly worth something.
ARM101 won't be completely without generic competition during that time, though. The drug is a fish oil product similar to GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE: GSK ) Lovaza, albeit in a more purified form. Lovaza is expected to see generic competition from Apotex starting in 2015, which Amarin will have to compete with. Generics from Teva Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: TEVA ) and Par Pharmaceutical (NYSE: PRX ) won't come until later because they lost their court case.
With the patent uncertainty nearly out of the way, investors can turn to the issues of who will market AMR101 once it's approved. There's speculation, like there is for VIVUS (Nasdaq: VVUS ) , that the company will find an acquirer or a partner to launch the drug. For both companies, that seems like a prudent move. Cardiovascular and obesity are large markets that require many sales reps because the drugs are often prescribed by primary care physicians.
The patents, assuming everything goes as planned, should increase Amarin's attractiveness as an acquisition target. Considering the outstanding data to date, it looks like the intellectual property estate has been one of the main issues holding back the sale of the company. Pharma companies certainly don't need any more patent headaches than they already have.
Investors should keep in mind that a sale isn't a sure thing. Potential acquirers could still be worried about the enforceability of the patents. It's still very possible that Amarin ends up with a licensing deal, keeping the risk that the patents get overturned by the court on the shoulders of Amarin.
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