Sometimes you can't always get what you want and that's probably just as well.

When Pfizer Inc. offered to sell MannKind Corp. an unneeded insulin manufacturing plant in Germany earlier this year, the Valencia biotech jumped at the chance. That was largely because the deal included several years' inventory of powdered insulin that MannKind could use to launch its new Afresa insulin inhaler. U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the device could come by the end of the year.

Even so, a small biotech needing all the cash it can get to launch its first product probably has better uses for $30 million than buying an overseas facility it doesn't need yet. So when Pfizer's former partner, Sanofi-Aventis, said it wanted the plant, MannKind officials felt relieved especially since they get to keep the insulin.

"It was an incredibly attractive deal, but probably a little too early for us," said Chief Operating Officer Hakan Edstrom. "We always knew there was a risk Sanofi would step in."

Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis exercised a first right of refusal to block MannKind from buying the plant. In 2006, Pfizer paid Sanofi-Aventis $1.3 billion for full rights to its Exubera inhaled insulin system and the plant, but the deal gave Sanofi-Aventis the right to take the facility back.

Pfizer abandoned Exubera in 2007 due to poor sales and safety concerns, and no longer needed the plant. When other drug makers developing inhalable insulin followed suit, that left the field to MannKind. Chief Executive Al Mann doggedly maintains there is a market for inhaled insulin because he believes his company's Technosphere inhaler is superior.

Last week, MannKind's stock hit an 18 month high after Mann said in an interview that his company finally was getting serious interest from larger drug makers encouraged by the company's late-stage clinical trials unveiled at the annual American Diabetes Association meeting in New Orleans.

Rodman & Renshaw Inc. analyst Simos Simeonidis told clients in a note that the studies "solidify our view that Afresa can be a product that could take market share away from injectable insulins."

Also a hit at the meeting was a next-generation inhaler that MannKind previewed. The new lipstick-sized inhaler, now in clinical trials, was touted as being smaller and more efficient then even the palm-size model being used for Afresa.

The new inhaler, which will have to gain FDA approval, will be reserved for other inhalable drugs MannKind is developing but could be converted for Alfresa down the road, Edstrom said.


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