San Diego biotech cuts breast cancer treatment time from hours to minutes

An artistic depiction of how Halozyme's patented enzyme helps deliver drug molecules through tissue.
An artistic depiction of how Halozyme’s patented enzyme helps deliver drug molecules through the gel-like substance that fills open spaces in tissue.
(Provided by Halozyme Therapeutics)

Halozyme’s new business model is built on helping other companies deliver their drugs faster


San Diego biotech Halozyme and Swiss pharma giant Roche have devised a way to give breast cancer patients a treatment in eight minutes that previously took 2 1/2 hours to administer.

Halozyme announced the news this week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Roche’s treatment, which uses a Halozyme technology. Halozyme will receive royalties as part of the partnership.

Roche’s treatment has three components: two drugs that block HER2, a protein that contributes to unchecked growth in some types of breast cancer, and a Halozyme technology known as Enhanze.

Enhanze breaks down a sugar molecule abundant in the skin, which allows drugs to quickly be delivered through the skin rather than through a gradual intravenous drip. That minimizes the time health care providers spend monitoring patients and helps patients get their treatment and go back to living their lives, says Dr. Helen Torley, Halozyme’s CEO.

It’s the latest example of Halozyme’s new business model — helping companies that already have drugs deliver them more quickly and easily.

Halozyme used to develop new drugs, but it scrapped its cancer drug program after a promising pancreatic cancer drug flopped in a late-stage clinical trial, leading to the layoff of 160 employees.

The company now employs about 120 people and is focused exclusively on Enhanze. Halozyme’s announcement this week marks the second FDA approval this year for a drug administered with Enhanze. The first approval was for a drug that Janssen developed to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

This new business model is profitable, says Torley. She estimates that Halozyme could earn $1 billion in royalty revenue in 2027 from the company’s pharmaceutical partners.

“We will not get into oncology or any other type of drug development,” Torley said. “It doesn’t fit with this great model we have where we don’t have to spend a lot of money.”