Deals and Financings
Hengrui Therapeutics Inc., a New Jersey offshoot of Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine (SHA: 600276), raised $100 million in initial funding from HR Bio Holdings Limited, a JV formed by Jiangsu Hengrui and an unnamed investment company. Initially, HTI will work on US development of three oncology drug candidates from China-Hengrui. However, asserting HTI's autonomy, HTI's CEO Adam Zong told BioCentury the company will also develop its own products, either from internal R&D or partnerships. The initial capital, Zong continued, will fund proof-of-concept of the three China-Hengrui drugs and possibly a Phase III for one of them.
Spring Rain Software, a Beijing mobile healthcare app company, raised $183 million from China International Capital Corporation in a pre-IPO round. A major player in the crowded online healthcare sector, Spring Rain is known as Chunyu Yishing in Chinese. According to Tencent Technology, the company has not fully committed to an IPO. It may spin off its online consultation division and list it, perhaps through a reverse merger, or it may seek to list on the New Third Board. Rui Zhang, the company's Founder and CEO does not want to go public, Tencent said, but early investors are pushing for an exit.
Hutchison China MediTech (NASDAQ:HCM) and AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) will expand the Phase II trial of their partnered c-MET inhibitor, savolitinib, triggering a $10 million milestone payment to Chi-Med. In 2011, AstraZeneca agreed to partner the Chi-Med discovered drug in a $140 million deal that included $20 million upfront and the rest in development milestones. At the time, savolitinib was said to be close to starting clinical trials. The two companies agreed to partner development in China, while AstraZeneca is responsible for global ex-China clinical work.
Hefei Tianhui Incubator of Technologies, a Sinopharm affiliate, made a $6.5 million milestone payment to Oramed Pharma (NASDAQ:ORMP) as part of HTIT's in-licensing of Oramed's oral insulin product. Oramed recently announced positive top-line results from a US Phase II trial of the product in patients with type 2 diabetes. In November 2015, HTIT agreed to a $50 million package for China rights to the Oramed's oral insulin. HTIT is partially owned by China's giant state-owned Sinopharm.
Apollo Hospitals (IN: APHS), a major Indian hospital and clinic operator, signed a MOU to build a hospital with Hainan Ecological Smart City Group. Hainan Island, China's southernmost province, is a special economic zone. HESCG will provide land, underwrite construction costs and equip the hospital. Apollo will plan a state-of-the-art hospital, including advanced healthcare IT and telemedicine systems, plus operate it. For Apollo, the Hainan hospital gives the company a China presence, which it intends to expand.
Trials and Approvals
Ascletis Pharma, headquartered in Hangzhou, published positive interim data from a Phase II trial on its dual-drug, interferon-free treatment for hepatitis C. After 12 weeks of treatment, the virological response rate was 100%. The EVEREST trial, which was conducted in Taiwan, enrolled 38 treatment-naive Chinese HCV Genotype 1 non-cirrhotic patients. No serious side effects were found in the trial. Ascletis' IFN-free regimen, which received priority review from the CFDA, has begun a clinical trial of the dual-drug therapy in China.
ASLAN Pharma, a Singapore biotech company developing immunotherapies and targeted drugs for cancers that are prevalent in Asia, was granted US Orphan drug designation for varlitinib (ASLAN001) in gastric cancer. It was the second US Orphan drug for varlitinib, a pan-HER inhibitor. One year ago, varlitinib was given US FDA Orphan drug status for cholangiocarcinoma). ASLAN in-licensed rights to the drug candidate in 2011 from Array BioPharma (NASDAQ:ARRY).
Nanjing Frontier Biotechnologies reported its novel pain-relieving patch met trial endpoints in a US Phase II clinical test. At week two, AB001 demonstrated a statistically significant improved pain relief against placebo in patients with chronic low back pain. Frontier acquired the NSAID patch in late 2014 from ABsize of Japan. It is a prescription-strength product aimed at treating acute pain and inflammation of the joints and muscles.
Taiwan Liposome Company (TT: 4152), which applies proprietary drug delivery technologies to approved drugs, reported the Phase I/II clinical trial of its arthritis drug is now fully enrolled. TLC599 is a corticosteroid encapsulated in a lipid using TLC's BioSeizer platform. Because of its innovative formulation, TLC is administered by a small needle, allowing use in small joints such as the hand. Also, its sustained release provides longer relief from arthritis stiffness and pain. TLC expects to report results from the trial later in 2016, following the 12-week observation period.
Government and Regulatory
China is mounting a coordinated effort to improve healthcare coverage to the rural poor. By 2020, it wants the rural poor to have access to basic medical care that is "close to" the national average, according to an article in China Daily. Although China's universal healthcare insurance covers 80% of medical expenses, the remaining 20% - often equal to a year's wages - can easily bankrupt low income people. Fifteen central government departments will participate in the effort.
China's State Council has established the broad goals for a Big Data project that will start to take shape in 2020. The program, using a mixture of public and private resources, will consist of a life-long record of an individual's health - the diseases, physical mishaps, health risks and treatments - which will be used to promote public health. Clearly, China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, the ministry in charge of the program, is already impressed with the internet, whose facility to make appointments and conduct long-distance consultations is making inroads in China and will be included in the program. In presenting the plan, the NHFPC did not mention the words "data storage capacity," "cost" or other details.