BeiGene bags approval to start Chinese trials of Lynparza competitor

BeiGene is all set to start Chinese trials of its PARP inhibitor BGB-290, one of a portfolio of homegrown drugs that aims to challenge Western dominance in cancer R&D.

BeiGene is hot in pursuit of AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Lynparza, the only PARP inhibitor now on the market anywhere in the world, although several others are in late-stage development, including Tesoro's niraparib and Medivation's talazoparib. China is the third country to green-light trials of BGB-290, after Australia and the U.S.

BeiGene bills BGB-290 as a potent and highly selective inhibitor of PARP1 and PARP2 with some possible advantages over other drugs in the class, including greater tolerability and penetration into the central nervous system. 

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The Chinese approval would arguably be the most significant for BeiGene, which has made no secret of its dual goals. The company aims to be first-to-market in China and to develop best-in-class meds that can compete with earlier arrivals in other markets.

Along with BGB-290, BeiGene has three other cancer drugs in trials--PD-1 inhibitor BGB-A317, BTK inhibitor BGB-3111, and BRAF inhibitor BGB-283--which could collectively drive more than $1 billion in sales in China alone, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Matthew Harrison. 

That portfolio spans some of the hottest new drug classes in oncology, and differentiates BeiGene from its peers in the Chinese biotech industry, says Harrison.

Focusing initially on China--currently the world's second-largest pharma market after the US--is a canny move, Harrison adds. The Chinese cancer market is remarkably robust, with western drugs such as Roche's ($RHHBY) Herceptin and Rituxan, and Novartis' ($NVS) Gleevec all achieving sales of $200 million or more and growing at more than 20% a year. 

"By choosing to develop its drugs in China, BeiGene is eligible to pursue a potentially accelerated path to approval over multinational competitors that could provide a 3-5 year head start in accessing the Chinese market," Harrison notes.

Where BeiGene could really shine is in mixing its various drugs into more potent cancer-fighting cocktails. That ties in with the strong interest in testing immuno-oncology and targeted cancer drugs which has fueled dozens of partnerships among drug developers in the last couple of years.

"BeiGene is uniquely positioned to develop immuno-oncology combination therapies, given it owns the component drugs," according to Harrison. He is particularly interested in seeing the results of a trial that will combine BeiGene's BTK, PARP and PD-1 inhibitors, which should report in 2017.

- read the BeiGene press release

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