China Biotech in Review: Entering a New Phase?

Includes: CSKI, LMNX, TCM
by: ChinaBio Today

Last week, an acronym surfaced in China life science that hasn’t been heard much lately: IPO. Granted, it was only a rumor, and it was for a drug distribution company, not a drug manufacturer or, an even more unlikely event, for a drug discovery enterprise. But still, it was a sign – perhaps only an early sign – that the investment community’s disinterest in China life science may be coming to an end.

The IPO rumors concerned Sinopharm Medicine Holding Co., a major China pharmaceutical distributor (see story). According to the story, the IPO would take place on the Hong Kong stock exchange as early as October 2009. The goal would be to raise more than Hong Kong $2 billion ($155 million US). Sinopharm Medicine was founded in early 2003 by China National Pharmaceutical Group Corp. (Sinopharm) and Fosun Capital, with a total registered capital of 1 billion RMB.

Asymchem Laboratories announced an investment of its own. The company, a research-based contract manufacturing organization, is headquartered near the Research Triangle in North Carolina, though its nine operating facilities are located in China. It opened its high potency API and Drug Product facility, located at Asymchem's TEDA Tianjin 1 location (see story). The new facility provides state-of-the art containment for production of potent APIs, as well as tablet and capsule manufacturing of potent ingredients. At the same time, Asymchem announced it was given the 2008 Top Intermediates CMO Award by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) in a recent ceremony.

Research tools companies figured large in the China life science news last week. Luminex Corporation (NSDQ: LMNX), a Texas-based maker of multiplexed research tools, opened a Shanghai office that will serve as the company’s operations center for the Asia Pacific region (see story). The company said demand in China for its products was both strong and growing. The new facility will include office and training lab space.

Porvair Sciences of the UK, which specializes in microplates for drug discovery and biopharma research, signed up Universal Analytical & Testing Instruments Limited (UATIL) as its China distribution agent (see story). Porvair has built its own warehouse in Wuhan, China. The company cited China’s growing importance in drug discovery as a reason for its initiatives.

Chip-Man Technologies, a Finnish company that produces the Cell-IQ live cell imaging and analysis platform, will market its technology in China through the ChiFi (Shanghai) Biomedical Engineering Company (see story). The Cell-IQ system has not previously been available to Chinese biohpharma researchers. Cell-IQ is used to study cell lines, primary cell, co-cultures and mono-layer tissue models.

On the drug development front, Solasia Pharma of Japan has filed a clinical trial application with the SFDA for SP-01, a long-acting transdermal granisetron patch that seeks to prevent nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy (see story). The product is marketed under the name Sancuso. Solasia in-licensed the Asia product rights to Sancuso from Prostaken, a UK company. Solasia began clinical trials of Sancuso in Japan during March of this year.

China Sky One Medical (NSDQ: CSKI) was given approval by the SFDA to produce Diclofenac Sodium eye drops (see story). The new product will be used to treat eye conditions including uveitis, keratitis and sclerotitis. A generic product, Diclofenac Sodium eye drops are prescription medicines that are included in China medical insurance catalogues.

And finally, Tongjitang Chinese Medicines Company (NYSE: TCM) reported that its Q1 revenues fell 15% to 90.2 million RMB ($13.2 million) (see story). The decline paralleled the 21% decline in sales of the company’s lead product, the TCM osteoporosis treatment Xianling Gubao (XLGB), whose revenues dropped to 56 million RMB ($8.1 million). Tongjitang portrayed itself as a company "in transition," but investors don't have a clear vision of its future form.

Disclosure: none.