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Week in Review: Ascletis Collaborates with Roche on HCV Treatment

publication date: Apr 20, 2013
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD

Deals and Financings

Ascletis, a two-year-old China pharma startup, will collaborate with Roche (VX: ROG) to develop a Roche drug candidate, danoprevir, for treatment of hepatitis C virus in China (see story). Danoprevir is a protease inhibitor that has shown efficacy in European Phase II tests against HCV genotypes 1b and 4.

Thermo Fisher (NYSE: TMO) emerged as the victor in the hotly contested battle to acquire Life Technologies (NSDQ: LIFE), paying a higher than expected $13.6 billion for the privilege (see story). Both companies are in the lab products business, but Life Technologies adds gene sequencing machines to the mix. In addition, both companies are actively working to increase their China revenues, and combining the two companies was positioned as a way to gain better traction in emerging markets, especially Asia.

The Zongyi Group of China invested $8.6 million in ContraFect Corporation, a New York City-area biotech that is developing biotech antibiotics (see story). ContraFect is focused on the use of monoclonal antibodies and lysins as solutions for difficult-to-treat infectious diseases. The company said the new capital – it raised $9.5 million in the round – would advance a new drug toward clinical trials. ContraFect also expects Zongyi to open doors for the company in China.

Wuhan Kindstar Diagnostics, a company that provides esoteric testing services to over 3,300 China hospitals, formed a collaboration with Illumina (NSDQ: ILMN) (see story). Using Illumina's TruSightTM content sets, Infinium® Dx CytoSNP-12 assay and NuPCRTM reagents, Kindstar will validate molecular assays in its laboratories. Kindstar officials said the collaboration will expand its test offerings.

Cipla (BSE: 500087), an Indian generic drug company, began marketing a biosimilar version of the rheumatoid arthritis treatment Enbrel, which it sources from Shanghai CP Guojian Pharmaceutical Co. (see story). CPGJ has been selling the drug in China since 2006, where it has been given to more than 50,000 patients. Cipla described its relationship with CPGJ as a “partnership.”

Suzhou Ascepion Pharma said Debiopharm of Switzerland will support further China development of Debio 1144, a small molecule in preclinical development as a treatment for solid tumors (see story). In June 2012, Ascepion out-licensed global rights for the molecule to Debiopharm. Because the drug has the potential to be an effective treatment for cancers that are prevalent in China, Debiopharm will support Ascepion’s development of Debio 1144 for China. Terms were not disclosed.

Eddingpharm, a China drug distributor, and Chiesi Farmaceutici formed a JV that will market two of Chiesi’s asthma drugs in China (see story). The JV is owned 51% by Eddingpharm and 49% by Chiesi Farmaceutici. The two respiratory products were recently given Imported Drug Licenses by the SFDA, and the JV expects to begin marketing them in mid-2013.

Company News

Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the US and Canada, officially opened its new $120 million drug packaging facility in Hangzhou (see story). The plant will supply Merck products to China and other Asia Pacific countries. The China facility was built even though Merck is closing down plants in other parts of the world.

Trials and Approvals

Injex Pharma of Germany received SFDA approval to market its INJEX30 needle-free injection system in China (see story). Injex said its exclusive China distributor, Hangzhou Hema Medical Equipment Co., helped with the one and one-half year registration process. Injex will sell the product as a needle-free delivery system for insulin.

Shenzhen Chipscreen Biosciences said Chidamide (Epidaza®) met its primary endpoint in a Phase II trial, which was conducted in China patients with relapsed or refractory peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) (see story). The objective response rate was at least 27%, the agreed-upon goal. Chipscreen is developing the drug under an SFDA-approved accelerated review.

Echosens™ was given FDA 510(k) approval to market its FibroScan® device in the US. Echosens, a French company, is wholly owned by Inner Mongolia Furui Medical Science Co. (SHE: 300049) (see story). FibroScan is a noninvasive device that tests for liver fibrosis. It uses an ultrasound machine and a technology called transient elastography.

Disclosure: none.


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