China Life Science Week in Review

Includes: BYERF, CRL, SVA
by: ChinaBio Today

Although the China New Year holiday week put a crimp on life science news, it could not stop the flow entirely. Participants saw continued growth in the sector, helped by healthcare reforms, a booming economy and government stimulus. Accordingly, it’s no particular surprise that China life science companies continue to announce expanded products and services.

Although development of new medical products in China generates a lot of press, there is a related movement, less visible perhaps, that is also significant: the growth of contract manufacturing organizations in China (see story). Frost & Sullivan recently discussed the issue in BioSpectrum, Asia Edition, based on their research in developments in Asian life science. F&S predicts the industry will continue to grow at a CAGR of 20%, just as it has for the past three years. It expects revenues from China’s CMO industry to reach at least $2 billion in 2010.

Charles River Labs (NYSE: CRL) declared itself surprised at the low level of demand for its China CRO services (see story). The company opened its lab in October 2008 and, almost immediately, the company was said to be looking for a second site. However, the amount of activity in its Shanghai facility has always been less than the company’s expectations. Despite the slow start, Charles River remains positive on China’s longer-term prospects, and it feels it must be in China now to take advantage of China’s future growth.

The Hamner Institutes at Research Triangle Park, NC signed a partnering Memorandum of Understanding with the Oslo Cancer Cluster in Oslo, Norway (see story). The envisioned relationship will add a European connection to the Hamner Institutes, which currently features US-China partnerships. The goal will be to speed development of new cancer therapies as well as the companies responsible for them by building cooperation between Europe, China and the US.

China’s dissemination of health care insurance throughout the country will power 20% annual growth in spending for medicines in the country, according to Liam Condon, who spearheaded Bayer AG’s operations in China until the end of 2009 (see story). Bayer (OTC:BYERF) itself expects to produce returns that beat the 20% rate of growth. “There’s a lot of demand [in China] that’s not being tapped at the moment,” commented Condon.

Sinovac Biotech (NSDQ: SVA) (北京科兴生物制品有限公司) acquired a medical manufacturing site and land use rights in the Changping area of Beijing (see story). The site, which includes five buildings previously used to produce medical products, is about a half-hour’s drive from Sinovac’s existing Beijing facility. Sinovac will pay 120 million RMB ($17.6 million), of which 56.5 million RMB ($8.3 million) is due before February 20, 2010 with the balance to be paid over three years.

Quintiles, the privately held CRO headquartered in North Carolina, said its Beijing central lab has begun offering anatomic pathology services to help biopharmas develop more effective cancer treatments (see story). The same services are offered within China to match patients with the best cancer treatments for their genetic makeup.

CRH Medical Corporation of Vancouver has signed up Rayfield Technologies to market its proprietary hemorrhoid technology, the CRH O'Regan System™, in China (see story). The medical device, which was approved by the FDA in 1997, is a single-use rubber band ligation system.

Narhex Life Sciences, an Australian pharma whose main asset was partial ownership in a China joint venture, has declared bankruptcy (see story). In 2006, Narhex and China Shaanxi Dacheng International Trading Co. established a JV to develop a protease inhibitor for HIV. It also had licensed China rights to Cavidi diagnostic products, which could measure HIV viral load. From the start, the goal was to develop the products for use in China. The JV, Xi’an Hex Life Sciences Co., was supported by the Xi’an High Tech Authority.