FiercePharmaAsia—Sanofi’s Chengdu R&D hub, Takeda’s Osaka HQ sale, I-Mab’s $220M financing

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Sanofi, Takeda, I-Mab and Biogen made the news this week. (Google)

Sanofi is investing €66 million and hiring 300 for a global R&D operations hub in Chengdu, China, with a focus on digitalization and big data analysis. Takeda is reportedly looking to sell its legacy Osaka headquarters for about $542 million to help fund the Shire buyout. China's antibody player I-Mab just nabbed $220 million in a series C. And more.

1. Sanofi expands R&D presence in China with $77M Chengdu hub

In addition to its existing Asia-Pacific R&D center in Shanghai, Sanofi is opening a new global R&D operations hub in Chengdu, China. The €66 million ($77 million) hub will focus on the management and analysis of Sanofi’s global multicenter clinical trials data and files across the company’s therapeutic areas. It will host about 300 local R&D experts by 2020.

2. Takeda’s Osaka headquarters up for sale as drugmaker funds $62B Shire buyout: report

Takeda was founded more than two centuries ago at the site where it’s Osaka headquarters currently reside. But as its new HQ in Tokyo is up and running, the Japanese pharma plans to sell the old HQ and surrounding buildings, with the goal to collect around 60 billion yen ($542 million) to help fill the huge debt load it has taken for the $62 billion Shire takeover, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

3. I-Mab closes one of China’s biggest-ever biotech fundraisings

China’s I-Mab Biopharma, founded by former GSK China R&D chief Jingwu Zang, M.D., Ph.D., raised a massive $220 million in a series C round, following a $150 million series B round last March. The company plans to use the cash to advance its antibody drugs for cancer and autoimmune diseases. The size of the fundraising reflects just how far China’s biotech industry has come in recent years.

4. Biogen to spend $700M to build its stake to 49.9% in biosims joint venture with Samsung

Biogen is paying Samsung BioLogics $700 million to increase its stake in the pair’s biosimilar joint venture, Samsung Bioepis, from the current 5.4% to 49.9%. Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos recently said the JV’s European revenue is tracking at about $500 million per year. Besides a biosim to Humira, the company also has copies to Enbrel, Remicade, Lantus, and is working on others.

5. Athenex rakes in $100M, sets up Chinese TCR-focused JV

With a $100 million investment, Athenex is teaming with its longtime partner, Xiangxue Life Sciences, to launch a new Chinese joint venture built around T-cell receptor technology. The JV, dubbed Axis Therapeutics, will work on therapies based on Xiangxue’s TCR-T cell tech and could retrieve up to $110 million in milestone payments.

6. First clinical MERS vaccine by Inovio and GeneOne shows promise

Inovio and GeneOne Life Science’s MERS vaccine, the farthest in the global development landscape, elicited high levels of antibodies and T-cell responses in a phase 1 study. South Korea’s GeneOne will conduct a phase 1/2 study on the shot in Korea, with funding from the Samsung Foundation.

7. FDA slaps warning letter on Chinese contractor making OTC children’s drug

The U.S. FDA has issued a warning letter to China’s Foshan Jinxiong Technology, which makes over-the-counter drugs for children. During an inspection last August, inspectors found four violations, including failure to test each lot before distribution. The company is on FDA's import alert list.

8. Chinese API maker Sichuan Friendly Pharmaceutical chastised by FDA in warning letter

The FDA also sent a warning letter to Chinese API maker Sichuan Friendly Pharmaceutical, which has been on import alert since March. One problem the inspectors found is that the Neijiang plant had no data to support the shelf life labeled on its APIs.