FiercePharmaAsia—COVID-19 vax deals by AstraZeneca in China, Pfizer-BioNTech in Japan; new Legend CEO

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AstraZeneca-BioKangtai, Pfizer-BioNTech and Legend Biotech made our news this week. (Google)

AstraZeneca finally penned a deal to introduce its COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, to China, its second-largest market. Pfizer and BioNTech will provide Japan 120 million doses of their COVID-19 shot ahad of the Olympics. Legend Biotech's CEO has resigned, shortly after the Johnson & Johnson CAR-T partner's huge U.S. IPO. And more.

1. AstraZeneca takes COVID-19 vaccine to China with BioKangtai deal for 200M-dose capacity by 2021

AstraZeneca granted BioKangtai rights in China to its University of Oxford-partnered COVID-19 vaccine. The Chinese firm will reserve enough capacity to make at least 100 million doses of the shot by the end of 2020 and expand to 200 million doses per year by the end of 2021. AZ’s aiming to produce 2 billion doses of the vaccine, dubbed AZD1222, worldwide by the end of 2021.

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2. Pfizer, BioNTech keep COVID vaccine deals rolling with 120M-dose Japan pact

Meanwhile, Pfizer and BioNTech have penned a deal with Japan to provide 120 million doses of their mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2. The pair aim to deploy the shot in Japan in the first half of 2021, right ahead of the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The shot—one of four the companies have tested—just entered phase 3 this week.

3. Genscript chief, the majority shareholder of Legend, becomes China biotech’s new CEO

Johnson & Johnson-backed CAR-T player Legend Biotech said its CEO Yuan Xu has resigned for personal reasons. Frank Zhan, CEO of CDMO Genscript, from which Legend recently spun out, has stepped in to fill up the role. The news came as Legend just completed its mega $424 million U.S. IPO in June.

4. Takeda hustles to prevent cancer drug shortage after FDA warning letter

Takeda’s Hikari, Japan, plant was recently hit with an FDA warning letter. Now working to fix those problems, Takeda had to temporarily stop production at the facility for remediation. It triggered a local shortage of the chemotherapy drug leuprorelin, which Takeda’s resolving. The company said it doesn't expect a global shortage because it also makes the drug at a plant in Osaka.

5. AbbVie, Amgen and Takeda test anti-inflammatory drugs in joint COVID-19 study

The Japanese pharma also teamed up with AbbVie and Amgen in a joint COVID-19 treatment study, dubbed I-SPY COVID. Takeda will test whether its hereditary angioedema therapy Firazyr can tamp down immune overreactions in some serious COVID-19 patients. By way of an adaptive platform, the trial allows for multiple trial arms that can test several potential COVID-19 therapies simultaneously.

6. Aslan hires Kobayashi to add IL-13 clinical trial expertise 

Singapore’s Aslan Pharmaceuticals has named Kenneth Kobayashi as its chief medical officer. Kobayashi joined from Dermira, whose anti-IL-13 candidate lebrikizumab attracted a takeover by Eli Lilly. That med is considered a potential challenger to Sanofi and Regeneron’s blockbuster Dupixent. Now, he will help advance Aslan’s IL-13 project, its lead candidate ASLAN004.

7. India’s Zydus starts phase 2 COVID-19 vaccine trial after clearing safety test

Zydus Cadila has completed a phase 1 clinical trial of its COVID-19 DNA vaccine ZyCoV-D, showing the shot was well tolerated. Now, it’s moving into a 1,000-subject phase 2 study. Zydus sees the vaccine’s ability to withstand higher temperatures as an advantage over some rival approaches.

8. Bayer's Eylea shows pandemic resilience, but major China price cut drags on business

To win a slice of China’s volume-based procurement contract, Bayer previously cut the price of its diabetes med Glucobay by a whopping 90%. But a share gain couldn’t fill the pricing gap. Sales of the drug plummeted by 74% year over year in the second quarter, mainly due to China. Meanwhile, Eylea sales in Japan benefited from volume gains as a result of price reductions.

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