FiercePharmaAsia—Takeda-CSL coronavirus tie-up; Qiming's $1B VC fund; Fujifilm's Avigan COVID-19 trial

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Takeda and CSL Behring, Qiming Venture Partners, Fujifilm and Evotec made our news this week. (Google)

Takeda has formed a multinational alliance to work on an unbranded hyperimmune globulin therapy for COVID-19. China's Qiming Venture Partners, which previously backed CanSino Bio and Zai Lab, has set up another venture fund. Following some encouraging early evidence and the initiation of a Japanese study, Fujifilm will test influenza med Avigan in a U.S. COVID-19 clinical trial. And more.

1. Takeda, CSL-led plasma players band together on COVID-19

Takeda and CSL Behring, along with Biotest, Bio Products Laboratory, Octapharma and LFB, have formed an alliance to ramp up the development of a plasma-based treatment for COVID-19. Takeda’s been working on TAK-888, a polyclonal hyperimmune globulin that’s made by purifying and condensing antibodies from patients who have recovered from the disease. The partners will now focus on a single, unbranded medicine of the same kind.

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2. Qiming raises $1B fund, continuing big burst of VC activity

China’s Qiming Venture Partners has raised a $1.1 billion venture fund. The VC shop has previously backed biotechs such as CanSino Bio and Zai Lab, as well as artificial intelligence drug discoverer Schrödinger. CanSino is now among the first in developing COVID-19 vaccines, and Zai Lab this week just secured Chinese rights to Regeneron’s CD20xCD3 anticancer bispecific REGN1979.

3. Fujifilm kickstarts phase 2 trial of Avigan influenza drug in U.S. COVID-19 patients (release)

Fujifilm will start testing antiviral drug Avigan in a phase 2 study in U.S. patients with COVID-19, days after announcing a phase 3 in Japan. The drug has been approved for influenza in Japan and China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe previously publicly endorsed the med for use in COVID-19, and the White House is reportedly pushing the FDA to allow the drug for emergency use.

4. Evotec allies with Takeda to move into gene therapy R&D

Evotec has partnered with Takeda to expand into gene therapy research. The Japanese pharma acquired a gene therapy center in Orth an der Donau, Austria, via its Shire buyout. Now, Evotec has set a 20-person team near Takeda’s operation and signed up to help Takeda with its programs.

5. GSK allies with Innovax for COVID-19 vaccine R&D project

After granting China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals access to its adjuvant for a COVID-19 vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline is also providing China’s Innovax the same technology for its candidate. The team-up builds on an ongoing collaboration in which the two firms are working on a new HPV vaccine. The British pharma expects its many COVID-19 partners to report data over the next three months.

6. FDA's Hahn: No sign China has affected U.S. drug supply during coronavirus pandemic

Despite fears that China would limit its API supply to the U.S. during the pandemic, the FDA said it hasn’t yet noticed major signs for concern. “We don’t have any evidence that there’s a drug in short supply because of anyone blocking the active pharmaceutical ingredients coming to us (from China),” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told Fox News.

7. U.S., India spar over antimalarial as COVID-19 highlights state actor role in supply chain

India produces around 47% of the U.S. supply of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug being evaluated for COVID-19, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. But that supply was recently endangered by a drug export ban the country implemented. After President Donald Trump said he appealed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the restrictions have been partially lifted.

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