FiercePharmaAsia: Novartis’ kickback charges in Korea, Astellas’ Prevnar rival, late-stage data from Lilly-partnered cancer med

Welcome to this week’s FiercePharmaAsia report, which includes stories about possible new punishment for Novartis in South Korea, Astellas' licensing deal with Affinivax to develop a Prevnar competitor, top-line phase 3 data from Lilly and Chi-Med's colorectal cancer drug, and more.

1. Novartis products suspended in South Korea as officials weigh 'tougher' measures: report

Novartis might be facing “tougher” punishment in South Korea as a result of its kickback scandal last year. The country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety previously only inflicted a small fine and short suspensions for some medicines of the pharma company. But local media outlets reported that the Ministry of Health and Wellness is considering pressing for price cuts, information Novartis disputes.

2. Astellas, Affinivax team up on 'next-gen' pneumococcal vaccine to target Pfizer’s Prevnar

Astellas just licensed the rights to develop and market a “next-generation” pneumococcal vaccine using Affinivax’s Multiple Antigen Presenting System. The partnership aims to go after the world’s best-selling vaccine—Pfizer’s Prevnar 13, which reeled in about $6 billion for the New York pharma giant last year but has shown a lack of momentum for continuous growth.

3. Lilly, Chi-Med cancer drug hits phase 3 goals, eyes China NDA

China MediTech and partner Eli Lilly just posted positive top-line data from a phase 3 test of VEGF inhibitor fruquintinib. The drug hit its primary endpoint of increasing overall survival in more than 400 patients in China with certain colorectal cancer but failed at least two prior chemotherapies. Chi-Med is now gearing up for a mid-2017 NDA filing in China.

4. Arix, Takeda team up to build oncology, GI biotechs

After investing in the £100 million ($123 million) IPO of Arix Bioscience, which gave the U.K. healthcare investment group the money to invest in another 10 to 15 early-stage biotechs, Takeda Ventures has signed a strategic agreement with Arix to jointly finance new biotech startups primarily in the therapeutic fields of oncology and gastrointestinal diseases.

5.  Otsuka and Lundbeck revive Rexulti mask campaign as U.S. uptake soars

After a four-month hiatus, Otsuka and Lundbeck just brought in a new but similar TV ad for antipsychotic Rexulti that features people with depression using handheld masks to hide their sadness. Rexulti sales grew by 600% in 2016, and the partners have thus far spent more than $63 million on national TV ads to promote the med.

6. Pharmaron obtains majority stake in Shin Nippon’s Maryland unit

Beijing-based CRO Pharmaron just made a fourth acquisition in about a year. This time, it is obtaining a majority stake in fellow Japanese CRO Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories’ clinical pharmacology center located in Baltimore, a facility with 96 beds and focused on phase 1 and phase 2 clinical pharmacology research.

7. Wockhardt U.S. plant nailed by FDA in a warning letter

Add a sixth FDA warning letter to Wockhardt’s regulatory roadblock. The letter this time was sent to the Indian drugmaker’s facility in Illinois, and it would not, according to Wockhardt, restrict the flow of existing drugs but will keep it from launching any new products from the facility.

8. Bluejay Dx, Hitachi team up on noninvasive conjunctivitis test

Bluejay Diagnostics has entered a clinical research agreement with Hitachi Chemical to develop and market, in the Americas and Europe, a noninvasive, point-of-care test that detects the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE) in tears. The resulting technology could be used to diagnose allergic conjunctivitis.