FiercePharmaAsia—Merck-Eisai’s Lenvima deal, JW’s $90M series A, novel HIV drug

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Merck, Eisai, JW Therapeutics, TaiMed Biologies and WuXi Biologics made our news this week. (Google)

Welcome to this week's FiercePharmaAsia report, which includes stories about Merck's $5.8 billion deal for half of Eisai's Lenvima, a $90 million series A pulled off by Juno and WuXi AppTec's Chinese CAR-T joint venture, a novel HIV drug developed by Taiwan's TaiMed Biologics and manufactured by WuXi Biologics and more.

1. In another blockbuster cancer deal, Merck lays out up to $5.8B for half of Eisai's Lenvima

After nabbing a 50% share of AstraZeneca’s Lynparza, Merck has signed a similar deal for Eisai’s Lenvima. Through the potential $5.76 billion pact, Merck will get half of Lenvima’s sales. The Lenvima-Keytruda combo already has an FDA “breakthrough” designation in kidney cancer, and the pair is looking to explore its potential in 11 other indications.

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2. JW Therapeutics, a China CAR-T biotech formed by Juno and WuXi, gains $90M series A

JW Therapeutics, a Chinese CAR-T firm formed by Juno Therapeutics (now owned by Celgene) and WuXi AppTec, just pulled off a $90 million series A. They hope to move a CD19-directed clinical candidate for B-cell malignancies further. The biotech could go up against a long list of CAR-T players in China, including a joint venture by Fosun and Kite Pharma.

3. Taiwanese company wins FDA approval for HIV treatment with new mechanism of action

WuXi Biologics is producing a newly approved HIV med in the first Chinese biologics plant approved by the FDA

The FDA has approved Taiwanese company TaiMed Biologics’ Trogarzo, the first HIV therapy with a novel mechanism of action in more than 10 years. It’s used in combination with other antiretrovirals in drug-resistant HIV-1 patients. The med is manufactured by WuXi Biologics, which became the first and is still the only Chinese company to have a plant receive FDA clearance to make biological products.

4. Japan cuts prices on BMS and Ono's Opdivo, Merck's Keytruda: report

Japan has taken further actions to cut the prices of top-selling meds. Opdivo's price, which had been halved last year, will be slashed by another 23.8% starting in April. Merck’s Keytruda will get a 11.2% cut. The cuts come as Japan is changing the frequency of drug price checks from every other year to every year.

5. Daiichi Sankyo takes another big whack at U.S. sales operations, cutting 280 jobs

Daiichi Sankyo is cutting 280 jobs from its commercial operations across the U.S. as it streamlines its business to fit its current U.S. portfolio and begins to “prepare for its upcoming oncology pipeline.” The Japanese company went through another round of downsizing that cut 1,200 jobs in the U.S. in April 2016.

6. Eisai, partner Purdue hit phase 3 goals in sleep drug trial

Eisai and partner Purdue announced positive topline results from a phase 2 trial on sleep and wake regulation medication lemborexant. The drug was pitted against zolpidem and a dummy in the study, which the pair said had hit its primary and key secondary endpoints.

7. Cancer vaccine startup Oxford Vacmedix taps Asian syndicate for series A cash

In an unusual round for a British biotech startup, South Korean and Chinese investors put £9 million behind cancer vaccine developer Oxford Vacmedix. The Asia-dominated round is actually in line with the company’s strategy. It has entered the Chinese market with a subsidiary in Hong Kong and an R&D center on the Chinese mainland. Korea is next on its agenda.

8. MedGenome brings series C haul up to $40M to expand access to genetic tests

MedGenome, which focuses its genetic diagnostics business in India, has topped up its series C round from $30 million to $40 million. The company, best known for its noninvasive prenatal screening services, plans to expand into second- and third-tier cities in the country.

9. India’s Aurobindo has another sterile manufacturing plant cited by FDA

An FDA inspection at a sterile formulations plant of Aurobindo’s ended with a Form 483. The company said none of the nine observations are related to data integrity or repeated problems. It was reported that the issues cited could lead to product contamination.

10. FDA hits Chinese OTC drugmaker with warning letter over data, testing issues

The FDA issued a warning letter to Chinese OTC drugmaker Zhejiang Ludao Technology. The company was cited for lacking basic controls to prevent data manipulation. A previous test on a batch of spray made by the manufacturer found nearly twice the amount of active ingredient than was labeled.