Our team went into an editorial hiatus during the past holiday, so we’re tracing back three weeks of biopharma news from Asia in today’s edition. Chinese PD-1 makers cut prices by about 80% to win national coverage in their home country, while foreign drugmakers failed to cut deals. Fujifilm is planning a $2 billion cell culture site in the U.S., with another $40 million for a new viral vector facility in the Boston area. China’s Sinopharm posted 79% efficacy and snagged official China approval for its inactivated COVID-19 vaccine. And more.
None of the foreign-made PD-1/L1 inhibitors struck deals in China’s latest national drug reimbursement negotiations. While Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca and Roche were left without national coverage, domestic players BeiGene, Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine and Junshi Biosciences enlisted their drugs by slashing roughly 80% off their prices.
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Fujifilm’s planning some major expansions for its CDMO services. The company is shelling out $2 billion to set up a new cell culture production site, to be operational in the spring of 2025. The new facility will feature eight 20,000-liter bioreactors for bulk drug substance and could add another 24 based on market demand. It will also offer fill-finish and assembly, plus packaging and labeling services. Meanwhile, with a $40 million investment, the Japanese company has chosen Watertown, Massachusetts, to build its third facility for viral vectors.
China’s state-owned Sinopharm reported top-line data showing an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine from its Beijing research institute is 79% effective. Following a few months of emergency use, China’s drug authority on Dec. 30 conditionally approved the shot for general public use, and state media reported that the vaccine will be available free of charge to all citizens.
Ex-China expansion was a main theme that threaded through WuXi Biologics’ 2020. After several investments in existing sites or deals for new ones, the Chinese CDMO put down €150 million to take over Bayer’s drug substance manufacturing facility in Wuppertal, Germany, which currently handles production of Bayer’s antihemophilic factor therapy Kovaltry. This followed another WuXi deal for a Bayer Leverkusen plant.
Takeda’s geography-specific sell-offs have reached China. There, the Japanese pharma has agreed to offload some cardiovascular and metabolic drugs to local firm Hasten Biopharmaceutic for $322 million. The buyer was formed merely three months ago, backed by the government of the Chinese city of Hefei. The portfolio generated sales of about $110 million for the fiscal year ended in March.
Shanghai Pharma has broken ground on a massive incubation project in China’s biopharma hub in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang area. The new 8 billion yuan ($1.18 billion) industrial park will feature 3.2 million square feet of space and could house players along the industry chain, with more focus on antibody drugs and cell and gene therapies.
Sino-American biotech Terns Pharmaceuticals has raised $87 million in a series C round led by Deerfield Management, with an equity investment by Eli Lilly. The money will be used to advance three nonalcoholic steatohepatitis candidates, including an FXR agonist, a VAP-1 inhibitor and a THR beta agonist.
Codagenix and the Serum Institute of India have launched a phase 1 clinical trial of their live attenuated intranasal COVID-19 vaccine, with the goal to enroll 48 volunteers in the U.K. Other leading programs typically use a prime-boost regimen, but the pair’s candidate, dubbed COVI-VAC, comes in a single dose.
By using a combination of computational screening tools, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology showed that Acrotech Biopharma’s Folotyn (pralatrexate), a chemotherapy originally developed to treat lymphoma, could be a potent remedy against SARS-CoV-2.
Chi-Med has won Chinese approval for surufatinib in non-pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. To be marketed under the brand Sulanda, the drug is Chi-Med’s first oncology drug it developed by itself. Its first oncology product, colorectal cancer drug Elunate, is partnered with Eli Lilly. The green light followed on the heels of a rolling submission to the U.S. FDA.