FiercePharmaAsia—Samsung-Takeda R&D pact, GSK-Alibaba vaccine union, Gland’s renewed M&A deal

With a newly formed drug co-development deal, Samsung Bioepis is finally moving into novel drug R&D.

Welcome to this week's FiercePharmaAsia report, which includes stories about a novel drug R&D alliance between Samsung Bioepis and Takeda, an HPV vaccine partnership between GlaxoSmithKline China and Alibaba, Gland Pharma's reportedly renewed M&A plan with Fosun, and more.

1. Samsung jumps into novel drug R&D through Takeda deal

Through a newly formed drug co-development deal, Samsung Bioepis is finally moving out of the lower-reward world of biosimilars and into novel drug R&D. The pair’s first project is Takeda-discovered severe acute pancreatitis treatment, TAK-671. The Korean company has already made a name with its biosimilars, including the recently launched Remicade copycat, but it needs a new approach to get novel biologics through development faster.

2. GlaxoSmithKline partners with Alibaba for China HPV vaccine market grab

After launching its HPV vaccine Cervarix in China at the end of July, GSK has formed an alliance with e-commerce giant Alibaba to help promote the vaccine, in an effort to beat Merck’s formidable Gardasil to it. Built on the Ali Health platform on the Taobao mobile app, the campaign provides users information on cervical cancer and allows them to make Cervarix vaccination appointment.

3. Gland Pharma said to be weighing lower stake sale to Fosun to gain deal

It was previously reported that Fosun’s original plan to acquire 86% of India’s Gland Pharma is poised to be rejected by India’s cabinet. Now Livemint, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that Gland shareholders are considering reducing the selling stake to 74% so that the deal can pass government watchdogs. The deal was previously valued at about $1.3 billion.

4. Arcus adds WuXi Biologics-developed PD-1 drug under $816M deal

Arcus is getting North American, European and Japanese rights to a PD-1 drug developed by WuXi Biologics under contract with Chinese firm Gloria Pharma. Arcus is shelling out $18.5 million up front, and the Chinese companies are entitled to $422.5 million from development and regulatory milestones, plus up to $375 million for commercialization.

5. Pfizer wins Indian patent to Prevnar 13, draws cries of ‘monopoly’ from MSF

India’s patent office has granted Pfizer a patent for Prevnar 13. It would block other companies from selling cheaper versions of the vaccine in India or manufacturing one in the country for exports until 2026. Charity group Médecins Sans Frontières, which previously filed a pre-grant opposition against Pfizer’s application, called Pfizer’s move “just a way to guarantee an extended market monopoly.”

6. Encore makes pipeline play, licensing psoriasis drug from Dr. Reddy's

Dr. Reddy’s Promius Pharma subsidiary has licensed a steroid candidate to Encore Dermatology. The drug has passed phase 3 testing in adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Encore is paying up to $32.5 million for rights to the drug and a phase 2 candidate for psoriasis in children. This reflects Dr. Reddy’s recent effort in biosimilars and proprietary medicines for the U.S. market.

7. Dr. Reddy's revives ex-Novartis OTC brands with slate of new ad campaigns

In another effort, Dr. Reddy’s is reviving marketing activities for a handful of brands it bought from New Jersey-based Ducere Pharma last year. Doan’s, Bufferin and Nupercainal are the first and biggest brands Dr. Reddy’s is initially focusing on. The question is, how can it bring these brands, which have had high brand awareness in the past, back to consumers' awareness?

8. Medivir sells Chinese rights to hepatitis C drug to Ascletis

Medivir has offloaded the Chinese rights to its early-stage hepatitis C candidate to Chinese biotech Ascletis. The candidate, a nucleotide polymerase inhibitor dubbed MIV-802, fits into a hep C pipeline that includes danoprevir, a protease inhibitor Ascletis picked up from Roche, and ravidasvir from Presidio Pharma. These candidates probably represent the last few remaining chances left in hep C.

9. Alembic unloads Baddi formulation plant for undisclosed sum

India-based API maker Alembic Pharmaceuticals is selling its formulation manufacturing plant in Baddi to Scott Edil Pharmacia for an undisclosed amount. Alembic noted that the turnover and net worth of the plant over the last financial year was “insignificant.”

10. Parexel, Osaka International Cancer Institute combine for Japan trial work

Parexel, to go private after a $5 billion buyout by Pamplona Capital Management, has partnered with the Osaka International Cancer Institute to develop cancer and blood disease treatments. The CRO said the collaboration will help the Japanese research body accelerate clinical development of new oncology drugs.

11. Hong Kong doctor found giving expired flu vaccines to patients

Hong Kong’s Department of Health has started an investigation into the vaccination practice of a local doctor. He was found giving expired FuQuadri flu vaccines to at least 20 patients. The news came as the city just experienced one of its deadliest summer flu seasons.

12. Fire disrupts production at Alembic joint-venture generics plant in Algeria

A fire disrupted production last week at an Algerian-based generics plant—operated under a joint venture between Alembic Mami and local pharma Adwiya Mami—according to Indian drugmaker Alembic Pharma.