China Biotech In Review: Cloud Hangs Over Pharmaceutical Industry Over Cost-Cutting

by: ChinaBio Today

Deals and Financings

OriGene Technologies, a research tool maker from the Washington DC area, acquired Beijing Zhongshan Golden Bridge Biotechnology (ZsBio) for an undisclosed sum. Founded in Beijing in 1993, ZsBio provides pathology testing products for China’s oncology diagnostic market. The acquisition takes OriGene into the pathology testing market for the first time.

Zhejiang Hisun Pharma (SHE: 600267) signed an agreement with Piedmont Pharmaceuticals of the US to jointly develop products for the pet segment of the animal health market in China. Over the past few years, Hisun has proved itself to be a prolific dealmaker. Last month, it formed a $545 million JV with Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) to develop generic drugs. Hisun said the latest partnership will help it develop its new animal health business.

Government and Regulatory

China has allocated 50 million RMB ($8 million) to set up a Global Clinical Trial and Research Center in Tianjin Biotechnology Research Park. The Center will be tasked with building an internet network for clinical trials in China as well as a network for global trials. Shein-Chung Chow, PhD, a biostatistician from Duke University, will be the Tianjin center’s founding director. The Center promises to bring much needed transparency to China’s clinical trial activity, which is sometimes obscure.

China’s aggressive cost-cutting of drug prices, especially generics, has put a cloud over the country’s pharmaceutical industry (see story). A number of domestic companies, announcing their 2011 full-year results, have blamed the government’s control of prices for shortfalls in revenues and profits. According to Jason Mann, MD, PhD, Head of Pharma/Healthcare for Barclays Capital in Hong Kong, China can’t expect much change in the direction of policy before the ruling Communist Party appoints a new generation of leaders later this year.

To implement one of China’s healthcare reforms, Beijing has closed the pharmacies in two of its 22 public hospitals – as a trial (see story). Patients will now have to buy their drugs from independent pharmacies. The in-hospital pharmacies have long been a sore point for patients, who think drugs are over-prescribed and too expensive – the in-hospital pharmacies enjoyed a 15% markup.

Big Pharma in China

Boehringer Ingelheim will invest $15.7 million to build an Asian R&D center located in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang HiTech Park. The center, the first animal health center in China for BI, will be devoted to developing vaccines for diseases that are prevalent among China’s livestock. It will contain space for 70 workstations. BI positioned the investment as part of the company’s larger initiative to increase veterinary revenues in China.

Bayer Healthcare’s long term sales goal is to triple its 2010 China revenues by 2015, bringing them up to $3.3 billion. Bayer is already one of the top five pharmas in China. To accomplish its goals in China, Bayer employed an audacious strategy for a big pharma: it transferred global authority for its primary care business from Berlin to Beijing.

Trials and Approvals

InflammaGen Therapeutics, a San Diego clinical-stage company, will start a 200-patient Phase II trial in the US of its InflammaGen Shok-Pak as a treatment and prevention of multi-organ failure. To develop the product outside the US, InflammaGen has retained ChinaBio to assist the company with its efforts to bring Shok-Pak to China. ChinaBio has several similar engagements underway with other US and European companies, helping them secure co-development partners and funding in China for their clinical stage assets.

Sihuan Pharmaceutical (HK: 0460) announced its application to begin clinical trials of a new treatment for hypertension was accepted by the SFDA. The company developed Tylerdipine Hydrochloride, a calcium channel blocker, in its own facilities. Sihuan hopes to obtain approval to begin the China trials by the end of 2013, and the company will also seek to run tests of the product in the US.

Disclosure: none.

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