China Biotech In Review: Hisun-Pfizer, Merck-Simcere JVs Come Into Focus

by: ChinaBio Today

Deals and Financings

More details have emerged about two major cross-border China drug JVs that were originally announced two years ago: Hisun (SHA: 600267) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE); Merck (NYSE: MRK) and Simcere (NYSE: SCR) (see story). We now know that Hisun, which bargained hard for majority control, contributed 75 drug products to its JV and Pfizer added eight drugs to the portfolio. In the Merck-Simcere JV, Simcere was willing to settle for a minority 49% ownership. The Merck-Simcere JV is initially focused on six cardiovascular drugs, two from Simcere and the remainder from Merck.

3SBio Inc. (NSDQ: SSRX) will go private (see story). A full 87% of company's shareholders voted in favor of the $16.70 per ADS amended offer. One month ago, the acquiring group was forced to raise the price of the offer from $15.40 per ADS to $16.70. Some of the company's major shareholders threatened to vote against the transaction because prospective bidders, who proposed offering up to $20, were pressured out of the process.

Company News

Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, a division of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), announced it has four new medical entities awaiting approval in China along with four line extensions. It expects to file an additional nine NMEs and six line extensions for approval by 2017 (see story).

Lowering drug prices in China seems to have worked for GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) (see story). In 2009, the company reduced the cost of its allergy treatment, Avamys nasal spray. The number of units sold jumped to five times their previous figures, though revenues clearly gained less than that. Overall, GSK's China revenues were up 20% in 2012, reaching $1.5 billion.

Trials and Approvals

Zensun Sci & Tech, Ltd., a Shanghai-San Diego biopharma, reported positive results from four Phase II trials of its lead drug candidate, Neucardin, a treatment for heart failure. Because of the successful tests, Zensun has filed with the CFDA for accelerated approval of the drug. Last week, SciClone (NSDQ: SCLN) announced it has in-licensed the China rights to Neucardin.

A novel treatment for AIDS, developed in the Zhengzhou University labs of Junbiao Chang, PhD, has been approved by the CFDA for human trials. The molecule, which has been in development for ten years, is a reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitor, called Azi Fu (Azvudine). According to Dr. Chang, Azi Fu is more effective at blocking the mutated forms of the virus than currently available treatments. He also believes the molecule has the potential to lower treatment costs.

Curative Medical and ALung Technologies of Pittsburgh agreed that Curative will oversee a China clinical trial in support of a CFDA filing for approval for ALung's Hemolung Respiratory Assist System. The Hemolung is an external device that operates much like a dialysis machine. It removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen from a patient's blood as it passes through the device. Curative Medical is a China-US medical device company with products for cardiopulmonary diseases and sleep disorders.

China News

China's bird flu crisis has been contained, according to UN officials. Closing the live poultry markets in ten provinces seemed to dampen the outbreak. Because there have been no new cases discovered in the two weeks since May 8, officials declared the crisis over. However, China suffered $6.5 billion in losses due to the H7N9 virus, mostly in the poultry industry.

Disclosure: none.