China Biotech Week in Review: Medical Device, Big Pharma Milestones

by: ChinaBio Today

News from China biotech never follows a neat script, and last week was no exception. The announcements of accomplishments came from many different sectors, refusing to follow any particular theme. Still, it did seem that, compared to most weeks, there were more stories than usual about milestones from the medical device field as well as articles about big pharma’s ever-growing commitment to China.

Guangzhou Improve Medical Instruments Co., Ltd, an in-vitro diagnostics company, is scheduled to make its IPO on Shenzhen’s ChiNext exchange (see story). The company has established a price of 25 RMB ($3.67) per share for the offering’s 18.6 million shares, making the IPO worth $68 million. Its major product is evacuated blood collection systems. Improve Medical Instruments is the only life science company among the eight companies involved in ChiNext’s second round.

In November, Novartis (NYSE: NVS) held the official opening of Suzhou Novartis Pharma Technology Co., the company’s new $250 million center devoted to technical R&D as well as manufacturing of APIs and intermediates (see story). Novartis says the facility is a “complement” to its existing global network of technical R&D and production sites. Novartis chose the Changsu site because of government support and a good talent pool.

Biostar Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:BSPM) of Xianyang has signed a letter of intent to acquire an unnamed Xi'an-based manufacturer of medical equipment and nutrients for $1.1 million in cash (see story). Biostar expects the transaction will create an additional $3 million of revenue in 2010. The acquisition represents Biostar’s first foray into the medical device field.

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Peking University, Shenzhen Graduate School, will collaborate to develop novel technologies for drug discovery (see story). Pfizer will provide funds to support projects “of mutual interest,” and it will help support a translational research and drug discovery center that PKU intends to build. The two parties expect the pact will aid the long-term development of biopharma in Shenzhen and the entire country.

Scientists from aTyr Pharma published research in Nature Structural Biology showing that a familiar enzyme, aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, has a quite different function outside the cell than its well-known intracellular synthesis of proteins (see story). This discovery is the basis for drug development at aTyr Pharma, which is headquartered in San Diego, but also has a lab in Hong Kong and an office in Shanghai.

AlphaRx [OTCBB: ALRX] signed a long-term contract manufacturing agreement with Venturepharm (see story). Under the agreement, Venturepharm will supply AlphaRx with the API for its experimental hepatitis drug ARX1088. ARX1088 is an oral interferon inducer that AlphRx is testing as an adjunct to standard interferon regimens. The company hopes to market the drug eventually in China and other emerging markets. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

NiTi Surgical Solutions, an Israeli surgical device company with offices in the US, reported the first China use of its ColonRing™ product, which promotes closure following colorectal surgery (see story). The ColonRing anastomosis (joining) device was launched in the United States in May 2008, following FDA approval, and has been used successfully in thousands of surgeries.

Cellonis Biotechnologies of Beijing announced it used a novel technology based on stem cells to eliminate a glioma – brain cancer – in a 36-year-old Norwegian patient (see story). According to the company, the treatment shows an activated immune system can kill tumor stem cells and cancer daughter cells. Cellonis administered the stem-cell-based therapy along with conventional cancer treatments and TCM drugs.

Pfizer has taken on the job of co-promoting a diabetes drug in China for Takeda Pharmaceutical Company (OTCPK:TKPHF) (see story). Actos (pioglitazone HCl), an oral treatment for diabetes 2, produces over $4 billion of annual revenues for Takeda worldwide. The agreement will be in force until 2020 and pays Pfizer a fixed percentage of sales revenue.

Disclosure: none.