China Biotech In Review: Eli Lilly Joins The Big Pharmas Accused Of Bribing In China

by: ChinaBio Today

Deals and Financings

MicuRx Pharmaceuticals, a San Francisco-Shanghai antibiotics company, raised $25 million in Series B financing. The round was led by BVCF (formerly BioVeda) and joined by previous investors Morningside Group and Devon Park Bioventures. The proceeds will be used to fund the US-China development of MRX-I, which has completed a Phase I clinical trial in China. MRX-1 is a novel oral oxazolidinone antibiotic that targets drug-resistant infections.

Wanbang Pharma, a subsidiary of Fosun Pharma (SHA: 600196; HK: 2196), signed a Letter of Intent to in-license China rights for a diabetes 2 treatment from Sirona Biochem of Canada. The molecule is a member of a new class of oral diabetes drugs known as SGLT2 inhibitors. Wanbang, which will be responsible for obtaining CFDA approval of the drug, will pay up to $9.5 million in upfront and regulatory milestones to Sirona plus royalties, once the drug enters the marketplace.

Innovent, an innovative Suzhou startup, has partnered with Adimab of the US to discover and develop a new drug candidate. Innovent has specified a target, for which Adimab will use its yeast-based program to discover a fully human therapeutic antibody. Innovent will conduct the development activities with the goal of obtaining approval for use of the molecule in China. Adimab will retain rights to the drug candidate in the rest of the world.

Company News

In 2011, Zhejiang Beta received CFDA approval for Conmana (icotinib), an oral EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is indicated as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. Conmana is a me-too drug, and its clinical trial results were more or less in line with first-gen members of the class. However, its development costs ($20-$30 million) were only a small fraction of its big pharma competitors (up to $1 billion), and development time, from start to finish, was a short eight years. As a result, Zhejiang Beta can offer its drug at a price that undercuts the cost of its big pharma competition by 33%.

Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) has joined the list of big pharmas that have been accused of bribing doctors to promote sales in China (see story). A former manager of the company, known by the pseudonym of Wei Wang, told a private China newspaper that the company paid 30 million RMB ($4.9 million) in inducements raise sales of its insulin products over a one-year period during 2011-12. Lilly is now the fourth MNC to have a former employee make this type of accusation. The others are GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), Novartis (NYSE: NVS) and Sanofi (NYSE: SNY).

BeiGene, Ltd., a Beijing pharma formed in 2010, announced a Scientific Advisory Board that includes an international list of experts with experience in oncology drugs. The SAB is comprised of: Neal Rosen, MD, PhD; David Schenkein, MD; Charles Sawyers, MD; Xiaodong Wang, PhD; and Steve Young, PhD. BeiGene discovers its own cancer drug candidates and in-licenses molecules that are close to clinical stage for China development. It calls itself a proof-of-concept company.

Disclosure: none.