Tokyo-based Fujifim has licensed the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) for the flu drug Avigan (favipiravir) to Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceuticals, marking a first time the Japanese firm landed such a deal in China.
The therapy is an antiviral drug developed by Fujifilm unit Toyama Chemical and is the subject of study for the potential treatment of Ebola. It has been used clinically against flaviviruses, including avian influenza. The drug was approved for manufacturing and marketing in Japan in March 2014.
Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceuticals formed a JV in China with Pfizer ($PFE) in 2012 under the name Hisun-Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. It was unclear if the joint venture would have any role in the API license.
"China has had reports of humans infected with avian influenza (H5N1, H7N9, etc.) in addition to regular seasonal influenza," Fujifilm said in a release.
"The need to develop new drugs for treating influenza has come amidst mounting concerns--in recent years that avian influenza viruses could mutate into a new type of virus, capable of human-to-human transmission. Such a mutation could potentially trigger a pandemic."
In a release, Fujifilm said the patent license agreement for the API will allow Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceuticals to develop, produce and market an anti-influenza drug in China in return for an unspecified lump-sum payment and potential royalties if a drug is launched in China.
Fujifilm has stepped up collaborations in the pharmaceutical industry of late, including co-marketing a biosimilar version of Sanofi ($SNY) blockbuster Lantus (insulin glargine) developed by India's Biocon as well as expanding work with Merck ($MRK) at a biologics plant in Ireland.