FiercePharmaAsia—Samsung's Lilly COVID-19 pact, AstraZeneca JV end; ex-AZ exec's $200M startup

To ensure supply after an FDA emergency use authorization, Samsung Biologics has accelerated manufacturing of Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody bamlanivimab. The South Korean CDMO and partner AstraZeneca intend to disband their biosimilar joint venture on a lack of commercial opportunity. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca's former China R&D head has launched a new firm with $200 million from some venture capital heavy hitters. And more.

1. Lilly partners with Samsung to boost COVID-19 antibody manufacturing amid supply concerns

Now that Eli Lilly’s AbCellera-shared COVID-19 antibody bamlanivimab has won FDA emergency use authorization, its manufacturing partner Samsung Biologics is set to “greatly accelerate” the global supply. The two first signed the manufacturing collaboration agreement in May, and Samsung has since produced a first batch of the active ingredient.

2. Samsung Biologics, AstraZeneca to dissolve biosimilar JV, scrap Rituxan copy program: report

Meanwhile, Samsung Biologics and AstraZeneca are calling it quits on a 50-50 joint venture called Archigen Biotech. The reason? A biosimilar to Roche’s blockbuster Rituxan, on which the small firm is built, “lacks commercial viability,” an official at the Korean CDMO said, according to Korea Biomedical Review. The pair has decided to stop development of the copy despite having phase 3 data.

3. Ex-AstraZeneca executive launches D3 Bio with $200M

George Chen, most recently AstraZeneca’s China R&D head, has set up its own shop, D3 Bio. The company came to life with $200 million from investors such as Sequoia Capital China, Temasek and WuXi AppTec’s corporate venture fund. The plan is to identify areas of unmet need in immunology and oncology and use existing clinical data to find precision medicine targets.

4. Viatris' growth story hinges on M&A as China, Japan hang in the balance: analyst

Pfizer and Mylan have closed their generics merger, but the legacy Upjohn part of the business from Pfizer is subject to some uncertainties, mainly China’s value-based procurement program and Japan’s timing of Lyrica generics entry. Therefore, RBC Capital Markets analyst Randall Stanicky argues the new company should consider M&A to boost its growth outlook.

5. Celltrion plots $453M South Korean expansion to aid ambitious biosimilar pipeline push: report

Celltrion, amid work on a COVID-19 antibody drug, plans to plow $453 million into building a third manufacturing site and R&D center at its Songdo, South Korea, complex near Seoul. The R&D portion is expected to be completed by July 2022, while the plant could go online in June 2024 with an additional 60,000 liters of capacity—an increase of about 33% from the company’s current volume.

6. China's Sinovac sees speedy immune response with COVID-19 shot in early trials

Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, CoronaVac, showed it could induce “a quick antibody response within four weeks of immunization,” according to researchers who published the phase 1/2 results in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. The Chinese firm is already testing the shot in phase 3 trials in different parts of the world, including one in Brazil that was temporarily halted and soon resumed.

7. Qiming Venture Partners boosts 7th fund to $1.2B, battling back against COVID-19 headwinds

China’s Qiming Venture Partners, a regular life sciences investor, has collected $1.2 billion for its Fund VII, the largest in the country this year. The VC shop has over the years picked up stakes in Schrödinger, CanSino Biologics and Zai Lab, among others.

8. As Urovant gears up for vibegron FDA decision, the biotech gets snapped up by Sumitovant Biopharma

In a $3 billion deal last year, Japan’s Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma bought five children firms from Roivant Sciences, with options to acquire six additional “vants,” to form a new company called Sumitovant Biopharma. Now, urology-focused Urovant has made its way to the new firm as it nears an FDA decision data for its lead asset, vibegron, in overactive bladder disorder.

9. Chinese CRMO Pharmaron snaps up U.S. contract research company Absorption Systems

Beijing-based contract research and manufacturing company Pharmaron is shelling out $147.5 million to acquire U.S. preclinical CRO Absorption Systems. The addition of Absorption further expands Pharmaron’s global reach and boosts its work in DMPK/ADME and bioanalysis for both small and large molecules and human PK prediction.