FiercePharmaAsia—Amgen-Astellas JV; Hengrui's new chairman; coronavirus vaccine development

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Amgen and Astellas, Jiangsu Hengrui, Moderna and Inovio made our news this week. (Google)

On the heels of a China team-up with BeiGene, Amgen is on track to run a Japanese operation independently after buying out an Astellas joint venture. Sun Piaoyang has stepped down as Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine's chairman after leading—and making a fortune from—the Chinese pharma major for 30 years. Moderna and Inovio are utilizing their novel platforms to develop vaccines against the new coronavirus that's emerged in China. And more. 

1. Amgen wades deeper into Asia with full control of an Astellas Japanese JV

Amgen is taking full control of a Japanese joint venture it formed with Astellas in 2013 by purchasing the 49% of shares it doesn’t yet have. The move comes on the heels of a $2.7 billion BeiGene tie-up in China. Together, they represent Amgen’s growing interest in the Asia market, from which it’s expecting 25% of growth in the next decade.

2. Hengrui's Sun Piaoyang, China's richest pharma leader, steps down after 30-year run—sort of

Sun Piaoyang, half of China’s wealthiest pharma family, is stepping down as chairman of Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine, the company he’s led for 30 years. Zhou Yunshu, Hengrui’s 17-year president, will succeed him. Sun is still the drugmaker’s real controller and remains the head of its board’s strategy committee. His transition comes at a critical time as Hengrui tries to shift its focus to innovative therapies.

3. Moderna, federal researchers kick off vaccine work against deadly new coronavirus

Inovio, Moderna score CEPI funding for vaccine work against deadly coronavirus

As China grapples with the spread of a new coronavirus, researchers have kicked off development of vaccines. Moderna is working with the National Institutes of Health on a potential vaccine that leverages the biotech’s mRNA technology, with funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). Separately, Inovio has also secured a CEPI grant to cover development costs through phase 1 for its INO-4800.

4. Chi-Med stops pivotal pancreatic cancer trial upon early success

After Chi-Med’s self-discovered surufatinib passed a phase 3 study early in neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) originated outside the pancreas, the drug has aced another trial, this time in pancreatic NETs. The company stopped the phase 3 Chinese study early after a data monitoring committee found it had hit the primary endpoint.

5. After closing one of China's biggest-ever raises, I-Mab Biopharma nabs $104M Nasdaq IPO

China-based cancer and autoimmune disease specialist I-Mab Biopharma has raised $104 million on the U.S. Nasdaq composite, becoming the first Chinese biotech to gain a U.S. IPO in more than two years. The offering seems relatively tame compared with the more than $400 million it raised in previous funding rounds.

6. Korean VCs pile into PDC*line to bankroll NSCLC vaccine trial

Franco-Belgian biotech PDC*line Pharma has attracted Korean investors—including Korea’s leading venture capital firm, Korea Investment Partners—to help fund its €13.9 million ($15.5 million) series B round. The money will support a phase 1/2 trial of the company's therapeutic vaccine, dubbed PDC*lung01, in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. LG Chem Life Sciences holds Korean rights to the drug.

7. Foxconn backs digital X-ray startup Nanox's $26M round

Taiwanese electronics multinational Foxconn has bankrolled Israeli medical imaging company Nanox’s $26 million funding round to help fuel the development and commercialization of its “Star Trek”-inspired digital X-ray bed. The consumer tech manufacturing giant was joined by existing investors, including Japan’s Fujifilm and Korea’s SK Telecom.