China has declared it wants to be the world's leader in drug innovation, and its life science sector made remarkable progress toward becoming a global leader in 2012. "In the world of China life science, VC investment, M&A transactions, partnering activity, especially cross-border deals - all of these metrics were up substantially last year," said Greg B. Scott, CEO and Founder of ChinaBio LLC.
Deals and Financings
Zhejiang Hisun Pharma (SHA: 600267) in-licensed China rights to ThermoDox, a liver cancer drug developed by Celsion Corporation (NSDQ: CLSN), in a deal that totals $100 million in upfront and milestone payments (see story). Celsion is expected to announce results from a Phase III trial of the drug later this month. In May 2012, Celsion chose Hisun as its global manufacturer for ThermoDox. Celsion expects the deal to be worth "hundreds of million of dollars" over time in milestones and royalties, given the prevalence of liver cancer in China.
Simcere Pharma (NYSE: SCR) sold its 35% stake in Shanghai Celgen Bio-Pharmaceutical for $48.6 million (see story). That's more than twice the $20.6 million Simcere paid for the shares in 2009. Celgen makes a biosimilar version of arthritis treatment etanercept. Simcere sold its shares to Devont Asset Management Limited without disclosing a reason for the sale.
Huapont Pharma (SHE: 002004) signed a letter of intent to partner with Yes Biotech, a Canadian company, to develop the latter company's innovative psoriasis/eczema treatment. Both companies have an interest in dermatology products, and Yes Biotech already markets a psoriasis salve. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but it seems Huapont will make an investment in Yes Biotech.
Xceleron of the US and Crystal Pharmatech of Suzhou, China formed a partnership to provide drug developers with their early-stage CRO services. Xceleron pioneered human microdose and microtracer accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) technology, which clarifies the pharmacokinetics and metabolism of developmental drugs. Crystal Pharmatech applies material science principles to drug development, discovering the optimal solid phase for development.
Wilex Inc., a US maker of diagnostic tests, engaged GeneDiagnostics as its exclusive distributor for the company's serum HER-2/neu ELISA test in China. Based in Hangzhou, GeneDiagnostics is a CRO/service provider. The biomarker test is used to monitor patients with metastatic breast cancer. It is approved for US and European use; GeneDiagnostics will be responsible for obtaining its China approval. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Trials and Approvals
Sihuan Pharma (HK: 0460) received approval from the SFDA to begin clinical trials of the company's new antibiotic, benapenem, a Category 1.1 drug that is a member of the carbapenem class of antibiotics. Both the APIs and injection form of the drug are patented. Sihuan said the antibiotic will begin its clinical trial in the first half of 2013, the company's third Category 1 innovative drug to enter human trials.
Can-Fite Biopharma (CANFY.PK), an Israeli firm developing drugs for inflammatory and liver disease, will transfer its drug production to China (see story). The company said China's Chemspec has optimized production of its APIs, reducing its costs considerably. Can-Fite is facing multiple Phase III clinical trials for its drug candidates, and it estimates that outsourcing the manufacturing to Chemspec will save the company millions of dollars.