FiercePharmaAsia—Takeda’s Alzheimer’s flop, Shanghai Pharma’s U.S. plan, NextCODE talk

Takeda, Shanghai Pharma and WuXi NextCODE made our news this week.

Welcome to this week's FiercePharmaAsia report, which includes stories about a recent Alzheimer's study fail, Shanghai Pharma's overseas expansion plan, WuXi NeCODE CEO's thoughts on the company and the genomics industry, plus more need-to-know news from Asia's pharma industry.

1. Takeda, Zinfandel ax Alzheimer’s test for pioglitazone, chalking up another AD fail

Another disappointment in Alzheimer’s saw Takeda and partner Zinfandel cancel testing of diabetes medicine Actos (pioglitazone) as a potential Alzheimer’s therapy after an interim futility analysis showed no promise. Some researchers believe that antidiabetics could help stave off the effects of AD—Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 analogue liraglutide is also being tested for that indication.

2. Shanghai Pharma seeking deals to drive overseas expansion

Shanghai Pharma, already a big player in the domestic Chinese market, is planning to open an R&D site in San Diego later this year. It has been looking for acquisitions or partnerships in the U.S. and Europe in recent years. The companies previously made moves on Stada and Arbor, and successfully took over Cardinal Health’s China business for $557 million in cash.

3. In conversation with: WuXi NextCODE CEO Hannes Smárason

In a recent interview with FiercePharma, WuXi NextCODE CEO Hannes Smárason said the company plans to build its genomics database from half a million people to about 5 million by 2020. It will also focus on cementing its leadership position as the global platform for genomic data, while significantly growing its direct-to-consumer products in China to constitute over half of its entire business.

4. Sanofi agrees to pay for proven Dengvaxia adverse events in the Philippines

Speaking to a Senate panel, Sanofi Pasteur Asia-Pacific head Thomas Trimphe said the company will shoulder the cost of any Dengvaxia adverse events only if they’re scientifically linked to vaccination. The vaccine maker previously agreed to refund the Philippines for unused Dengvaxia shots.

5. Tmunity nabs $100M for next-gen T-cell immunotherapies

U.S. biotech Tmunity, which focuses on T-cell immunotherapies against cancer, secured $100 million in series A backed by a group of investors including China’s Ping An Ventures. Lilly Asia Ventures was one of the company’s seed round investors. Ping An Ventures' managing partner said it was attracted to T-cell therapies’ potential in oncology in China.

6. Evolus says its Botox biosimilar could be delayed by FDA issues with Daewoong plant

After a preapproval inspection of a Daewoong Pharma plant in South Korea, the FDA issued a Form 483 with 10 observations. Those manufacturing concerns could delay the approval of a Botox copycat, which U.S. biotech Evolus contracted Daewoong to produce. The contractor assured Evolus it expects no further actions from the agency, but Evolus said there are no guarantees of that.

7. China AI biotech XtalPi lands $15M from Sequoia, Google, Tencent

Founded in 2014 by a group of physicists at MIT, China biotech XtalPi just secured a $15 million series A funded by high-profile tech investors Sequoia, Google and Tencent. The company combines artificial intelligence, quantum physics and cloud computing to predict drugs’ crystal structures, which could affect drugs’ potential safety, stability and efficacy.

8. In a first, China approves Amoy’s lung cancer liquid biopsy

China’s FDA has approved Amoy Diagnostics’ EGFR mutation liquid biopsy, the first of its kind cleared in the country. Traditionally, doctors test tumor samples to identify patients most likely to respond to EGFR inhibitors, but Amoy’s product is able to identify EGFR gene mutations in plasma samples.

9. Vical’s Astellas-partnered CMV vaccine falls short again, this time in stem cell transplant recipients

Astellas licensed a cytomegalovirus vaccine candidate from Vical in 2011. The vaccine had previously failed a phase 2 kidney transplant study, and now also missed both the primary and secondary endpoints in a phase 3 in hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients.

10. Chinese biotech building facility to make biosimilars

General Electric will help China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals build a biologics manufacturing facility, which will include two 2,000-leter bioreactors and is expected to be up and running the second half of 2018. The company plans to produce an Enbrel biosimilar there for the Chinese market.