Ariad Pharmaceuticals not for sale: CEO

By Anand Basu

BANGALORE (Reuters) – Ariad Pharmaceuticals (ARIA.O: Quote, Profile, Research), whose stock is trading at near five-year highs, is not looking to sell itself and is in partnership talks with large pharmaceutical companies in Japan for its leukemia drug, its chief executive said.

“The company is not for sale,” Chief Executive Harvey Berger told Reuters, adding that he expects to launch the drug ponatinib at the end of next year or early 2013.

The company is currently testing ponatinib in a mid-stage trial as a treatment for two types of blood cancers — chronic myeloid leukemia and Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which mostly occurs during childhood.

Ariad is trying to develop ponatinib as a treatment for patients who are resistant or intolerant to Novartis’ (NOVN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) drug Sprycel or Bristol-Myers Squibb Co’s (BMY.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Tasigna.

“We will partner the drug in Asia, because it’s not a place where I think it’s appropriate for us to make a major investment at this time,” Berger said.

Berger estimates that the global market for the drug is more than $600 million a year.

“We will commercialize the drug entirely on our own in the U.S. and we are already in the process of building infrastructure necessary to market and sell ponatinib,” he said.

The company also expects to commercialize ponatinib in Europe on its own, he said.

Ariad is currently co-developing the drug ridaforolimus with Merck & Co (MRK.N: Quote, Profile, Research) as a treatment for patients with metastatic sarcomas, a form of cancer that affects soft tissues and bones, who had a favorable response to chemotherapy. (Reporting by Anand Basu in Bangalore; Editing by Roshni Menon)

Ariad Pharmaceuticals not for sale: CEO