China Biotech In Review: Novartis Has A Novel Scandal Potentially Brewing

Includes: BSX, LLY, NVS
by: ChinaBio Today

Deals and Financings

Tianjin CanSino Biotech received a $10 million strategic investment from Lilly Asia Ventures, a venture capital arm of Lilly (NYSE: LLY) (see story). CanSino specializes in the R&D and manufacture of human vaccines. CanSino will use the capital for R&D, clinical research and early stage commercialization of core combined DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) vaccines and several other innovative vaccines. CanSino seeks to develop and market leading-edge, high quality vaccines for China and other emerging markets at an affordable cost.

The Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica will collaborate with Servier, a French pharma, on China development of lucitanib, a clinical-stage anti-angiogenic cancer drug. SIMM will undertake research into biomarkers for the drug. The two companies plan to conduct China clinical trials of lucitanib in specific indications with the help of Haihe Pharmaceutical, a SIMM subsidiary. SIMM and Servier will own China rights to the drug jointly, though the China trial will be part of Servier's larger effort to obtain global regulatory approval of lucitanib.

Trials and Approvals

Zhejiang Huahai Pharma (SHA: 600521) received CFDA approval to produce efavirenz, an oral non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) used to control the symptoms of AIDS. Huahai is the first China drugmaker approved to make the drug. Huahai produced efavirenz API for Merck (NYSE: MRK), which marketed the drug under the name Stocrin.

Wanbang Biopharma, a subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharma (SHA: 600196, HK: 2196), received CFDA to begin clinical trials of a third-generation insulin analogue, Lispro (see story). Lispro is a recombinant insulin that is designed to be fast-acting, with a relatively short duration of action, usually taken just before, or just after mealtimes. In China, only Lilly and Gan & Lee offer Lispro-class insulin drugs.

Company News

Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX), the US medical device maker, has opened the China branch of its Institute for Advancing Science (IAS) and a new Innovation Center in Shanghai (see story). The IAS expects to train 700 medical professionals a year in the use of various Boston Scientific medical devices. The associated Innovation Center will collect customer feedback to help customize products for the China market. The new Institute and Center are part of a $150 million, five-year investment the company will make to increase its presence in China.

Novartis (NYSE: NVS) has a novel scandal potentially brewing in China: a whistleblower with the colorful alias "Zorro," alleges that Alcon, the eyecare unit of Novartis, bribed doctors in 200 hospitals using money intended for post-marketing patient experience surveys of lens implants (see story). The surveys are a form of post-approval clinical trial. One month ago, a China salesperson went public with a claim that her manager ordered her to use $8,170 to bribe doctors so that she could meet her revenue targets.

Disclosure: none.