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The Week in Review: Abcam Pays $170 Million for China-Connected Epitomics

publication date: Mar 10, 2012
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD
Deals and Financings

Abcam (AIM: ABC) a UK maker of protein research tools, will pay $170 million to buy Epitomics, a San Francisco-area company that has developed humanized rabbit monoclonal antibodies for research purposes (see story). Epitomics has an antibody manufacturing facility in Hangzhou that employs more than 200. The company is led by Guo-Liang Yu, PhD, President, CEO and Chairman of the Board. Dr. Yu received an undergraduate degree from Fudan University in Shanghai before immigrating to the US, where he did his graduate work.

Jiangxi Boya Bio-Pharma (SHA: 300294) made its debut on the ChiNext exchange (see story). The company issued 15.23 million shares in its IPO at 25 RMB apiece, raising $60.3 million. In the first hour of trading, Boya rose 54% to 38.5 RMB. This caused the Shenzhen exchange to halt all buying and selling of the stock for the remainder of the session in an attempt to reduce speculation.

3SBio (NSDQ: SSRX) will form a $20 million JV with DaVita Inc. (NYSE: DVA), a US-based company that owns and operates kidney dialysis clinics (see story). The JV will provide dialysis services to Jilin and Liaoning provinces in northeast China. DaVita will contribute 70% of the start-up capital, and 3SBio will be responsible for the remainder. As part of the agreement, the JV will use 3SBio’s EPAIO, a recombinant human erythropoietin, to treat the anemia that is often a side-effect of dialysis.

EntreMed (NSDQ: ENMD), a Washington DC area biotech, has reacquired the China rights to its leading cancer drug candidate, ENMD-2076, and the company will open a China office to direct its work necessary for SFDA approval of the molecule (see story). In 2010, EntreMed gave Selected Value Therapeutics a 16-month option on the China rights to ENMD-2076 as part of a $5.1 million funding. Now, following a $10 million capital raise from investors with China roots and the expiration of the prior deal, EntreMed is moving ahead on its own.

Shanghai Duyiwei Biotechnology, a subsidiary of Gansu Duyiwei Biological Pharma (SHE: 002219), announced an agreement with California-based Apexigen to develop monoclonal antibody drugs to treat cancer (see story). Shanghai Duyiwei is paying $13.8 million to help underwrite Apexigen’s drug development costs. Apexigen previously established collaborations with Simcere Pharma (NYSE: SCR) and 3SBio (NSDQ: SSRX).

Wuhan Kindstar Diagnostics has raised $20 million in a C round from western investors (see story). Kindstar will use the money to expand the esoteric testing services the company offers to China hospitals. It currently services over 2,000 hospitals in 320 cities located in every one of China’s provinces. The China arm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers contributed $16 million of the total. The remaining $4 million was raised from existing investors WI Harper Group and Baird Capital Partners Asia.

Qiagen (NSDQ: QGEN), the Dutch provider of sample and assay technologies, will co-market its digene HPV (human papillomavirus) Test in China with KingMed Diagnostics, the largest independent chain of laboratory services in the PRC (see story). KingMed will function as a centralized lab, collecting tests from rural areas and smaller hospitals for processing and analysis. Qiagen positioned the agreement as way to increase the penetration of its molecular diagnostics business in China.

Government Policy

China believes in the power of science. Accordingly, China’s Premier, Wen Jiabao, announced significant increases in the PRC’s investment into basic research and technology for 2012 (see story). China wants to lead the world in innovation, and it is willing to underwrite the costs necessary to achieve that goal, giving its scientists good reason to celebrate. We have a breakdown of where the funds are going.

Big Pharma in China

Roche (VS: ROG) said its China revenues jumped 35% in 2011, though the company did not release specific figures (see story). China is important to Roche, said CEO Severin Schwan at the company’s annual meeting, in part because of its impressive market. But it is more than just a market, he continued, “It is also well equipped to be an innovator in any number of sectors including the research-based pharmaceutical industry.”

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) is willing to explore all paths to increase its China presence. CEO Andrew Witty said the company is looking at a range of strategies in China, including acquisitions, more SFDA drug approvals, building its R&D effort, and adding personnel to its already large 4,000 member sales force (see story). Even though China’s government is reducing prices on drugs, China’s market – already big and growing quickly – is too attractive a target for GSK to ignore.
CRO/CMO Activity

Aslan Pharma, the Singapore in-licensing startup, selected PharmaNet/i3 to conduct Phase I and Phase II clinical trials for two of Aslan's cancer drug candidates (see story). PharmaNet/i3, a CRO specializing in clinical-stage studies, is a part of inVentive Health.

Disclosure: none.



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