Fierce Pharma Asia—AstraZeneca-Junshi PD-1 deal; Takeda's $1.2B diabetes selloff, Ovid epilepsy collab pullout

In a strangely structured deal, AstraZeneca licensed Junshi Biosciences' PD-1 inhibitor for just one indication in China countrywide. Takeda continued divesting noncore products with a $1.2 billion deal focused on four diabetes meds in Japan. The Japanese pharma also took back full responsibilities for its epilepsy candidate soticlestat, ending a collaboration with Ovid Therapeutics. And more

1. AstraZeneca licenses Junshi's PD-1 in China in a bizarre commercialization deal

AstraZeneca has signed an odd deal for commercial rights to Junshi Biosciences’ PD-1 inhibitor Tuoyi (toripalimab) for just one indication—urothelial carcinoma—across China, plus all indications in “non-core areas” of the country. AZ’s own PD-L1 drug Imfinzi had recently flopped in bladder cancer, and the British pharma is known for its extensive marketing presence in regions outside the big cities.

2. Takeda keeps divestment spree rolling with $1.2B sale of diabetes meds to Japanese firm Teijin

Takeda continues its selloff spree with a new deal to divest four diabetes drugs in Japan to local company Teijin Pharma for JPY 133 billion ($1.2 billion). The portfolio hauled in JPY 30.8 billion ($288 million) in sales for Takeda’s 2019 fiscal year, and it once again fell out of the company’s five core business areas.

3. After farming an epilepsy med out to Ovid, Takeda brings it back into the fold

Takeda is paying $196 million upfront to take back full control over epilepsy candidate soticlestat from a partnership it formed with Ovid Therapeutics in 2017. The original deal had Takeda pick up equity in the biotech, while Ovid took charge of clinical development, with a commercialization territory split. The drug’s now poised for phase 3 studies in Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut in the second quarter despite mixed phase 2 results.

4. AbbVie sells biologics plant to Pharmaron, fueling the China company's cell and gene therapy ambitions

AbbVie will sell a legacy Allergan biologics plant in Liverpool, England to Chinese CRO mogul Pharmaron for $118.7 million. The purchase gives Pharmaron commercial manufacturing capabilities for its cell and gene therapy platform, complementing its recent acquisition of U.S. nonclinical CRO player Absorption Systems.

5. WuXi AppTec buys U.K.’s Oxgene in $135M deal for cell and gene therapy capabilities (release)

Meanwhile, another Chinese CRO giant has also made an investment in cell and gene therapy. WuXi AppTec paid $135 million for U.K.’s Oxgene, which becomes the first facility in Europe for WuXi Advanced Therapies, a business unit dedicated to cell and gene therapy. Oxgene’s technologies for adenovirus and lentivirus vectors simplify cell and gene therapy manufacturing while reducing costs, WuXi said.

6. China startup Suzhou Medilink Therapeutics nabs $50M for hot R&D cancer field

Chinese startup Medilink Therapeutics landed $50 million in a series A to fund its pipeline of antibody-drug conjugates, an area that has lately become a hot target in cancer drug development. The money will also support its unique conjugate platform, whose details remain under wraps.  

7. Sun steps up promotion of alternative-formulation products

Sun Pharma has in recent years launched several products in sprinkle formulations to help eliminate the obstacle of swallowing tablets for residents of long-term care facilities. Now, the Indian drugmaker has brought that portfolio together for a marketing push in the form of a new U.S. website.

8. Inhibiting pancreatic cancer by exploiting a protein loophole

Researchers led by China Medical University pointed to the protein interleukin-17 receptor B (IL-17RB) as a possible target for pancreatic cancer. They showed a small piece of peptide placed on the flexible loop region of the protein could impede its pro-cancer signaling. The peptide inhibited tumor metastases and extended survival in mice.