Week In Review: Zai Lab Partners With GE On China Biologics Manufacturing

by: ChinaBio Today

Deals and Financings

Zai Lab of Shanghai will expand into biologic drug manufacturing through a partnership with GE Healthcare, a company that makes biomanufacturing equipment. The two companies will cooperate on a facility in Suzhou's BioBay Park, already under construction, which will initially produce clinical-trial-level supplies of biologic drugs. In BioBay, Zai has started building the 4200 square meter large molecule cGMP plant, and it is also close to completing construction on a 5000 square meter small molecule manufacturing facility. GE's equipment will be used in the biologics facility.

The government of South Korea has announced a $102 million fund to support biotech startups in the country. Already a biopharma center, South Korea wants to augment the industry, hoping to create jobs and boost the economy. The fund was alternately described as building infrastructure, providing money for young biotech entrepreneurs and aiding venture capitalists (probably by starting companies that VCs would support later). South Korea believes that biotech, along with IT, represents the future, and the country wants to participate in its global development.

Creat Group of Beijing will acquire Germany's Biotest (DE: BIOG), a plasma company, for $1.3 billion. The transaction was priced at a 55% premium to the previous three-month average of Biotest's voting shares. Creat agreed to a five-year agreement that will keep Biotest's corporate seat in Dreieich, Germany, maintain the Biotest corporate name and increase employment equal to management's business plan. Creat is a 25 year-old investment firm involved in financial services, plasma drugs, manufacturing and mineral resources.

China Huarong International Holdings together with State Path Capital BVI (which is associated with Ka-shing Li of Hong Kong's CK Hutchison) have invested $18 million in Australia's Bionic Vision Technologies (BVT). BVT is developing a bionic eye that consists of an external camera, located on a glasses frame, and a retinal implant. With the new funds, the company will manufacture devices and begin a clinical trial of the device in patients with an inherited degenerative eye condition known as retinitis pigmentosa. Located in Melbourne, BVT is privately owned and includes staff from several Australian universities.

Foresee Pharma (TW: 6576), a Taiwan-US company, raised $16 million by selling 8 million of its common shares. The company said it would use the funds to complete a Phase III trial of its lead prostate cancer drug and for a Phase IIa trial of an MMP-12 inhibitor for asthma. In February, Foresee reached an agreement allowing Switzerland's Ferring Pharma to fund the development of Foresee's long-duration formulations of a peptide therapeutic, which was not identified. Once the development is completed, Ferring can exercise an option on the candidate.

HeliTec, a Shenzhen precision medicine company, will partner with Colorado's Archer DX to co-develop oncology diagnostic kits for China. The two companies are well known to each other. HeliTec's Co-founder and Chief Scientist, Zongli Zheng, PhD, invented technology that is central to Archer DX's next-gen assays. Founded in 2016, HeliTec focuses on innovative, sequencing-based diagnostics. It recently started the PANO-Seq™ project, which will look for molecular traces of malignancy in early tumors.

In an annual letter to shareholders, China conglomerate Fosun International (OTCPK:FOSUY) (HK: 0656), the parent of Fosun Pharma (SHA: 600196; HK: 2196), said its heavy use of M&A is designed to promote two linked goals: C2M and a closed loop. C2M (customer-to-maker) describes the internet world that has, in many cases, done away with intermediaries, allowing customers to talk directly to companies -- and vice-versa with targeted advertising. The closed loop is a result of C2M, allowing a company to dominate the varied stages of a particular industry. It is especially evident in healthcare. For Fosun, the closed loop includes health insurance, health management, healthcare delivery, pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. Fosun is active in each segment.

Company News

Novogene, a genomics sequencing company, ordered 25 Illumina NovaSeq 6000 sequencers, Illumina's (NASDAQ:ILMN) newest offering introduced in January. The machines cost $25 million total. Novogene will install five machines in the US, while it will operate the remaining 20 NovaSeqs, which were bought by the Nanjing Yangzi State Owned Investment Group, in China. Including its existing 30 Illumina HiSeq X and 10 PacBio Sequel systems, Novogene will now have annual throughput of 280,000 human whole genomes, the highest in the world, says the company. Headquartered in Beijing, Novogene has subsidiaries in Hong Kong, the US and the UK.

Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD), a US maker of antiviral drugs, is building a manufacturing facility in the Hangzhou Economic Development Area. So far, Gilead has not participated in China's pharma market. The company hasn't officially announced the plant, but it did tweet that it is looking for workers. The tweet linked to a Gilead site, written in English and Chinese, which discussed the company's treatments for HIV and hepatitis. Gilead's hepatitis C treatments are currently in China trials, three years after they were approved in the west.

Disclosure: none.

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