MannKind Corporation: Abandoning Afrezza The Only Option Left?


On Tuesday, French drugmaker Sanofi did something that MannKind and its investors must have seen coming: terminating the licensing agreement for Afrezza. Shares of the US biotech company fell 48% to $0.75 on Tuesday, a far cry from $7.5 in June 2015. The original agreement between the two companies stated that Sanofi could pull out of the agreement on or after January 1, 2016 if the commercialization of Afrezza was not economically viable.

MannKind exploring its strategic options

MannKind CFO Matthew Pfeffer told investors that it was not the end of the road for Afrezza by any means. The Valencia-based company had hoped that Afrezza would be a blockbuster. Some analysts even predicted that its peak sales would reach $7 billion. But the drug generated a paltry $5 million in the first nine months of launch, despite having the backing of Sanofi.

MannKind spent about a decade and $1.8 billion developing Afrezza. Termination of the agreement means the drug will not have critical marketing and distribution support. Pfeffer said the company would seek licensing agreements with other companies that could market, sell and distribute Afrezza. As a drug distribution company, MannKind lacks the marketing and distribution networks.

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Technosphere still in its infancy

JPMorgan analyst Cory Kasimov said in a research note that he was not surprised by the termination of licensing agreement. Kasimov says MannKind doesn’t have a “viable path forward for Afrezza.” The company has lost $91.4 million in the first three quarters of 2015, and had only $33 million in cash as of September. With a dismal balance sheet, there is little MannKind do to resuscitate Afrezza.

The JPMorgan analyst believes that the company will eventually abandon Afrezza. Now that Sanofi, which was the best case partner for Afrezza, has parted ways, Kasimov doesn’t see any other company stepping up. The biopharmaceutical company also has its proprietary Technosphere platform that provides pulmonary administration for drugs that are normally administered via injection. The analyst argues that Technosphere is still in its infancy and holds little value at this point.


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