Fierce Pharma Asia—Hengrui's global plan; Merck, Kelun's $1.4B cancer deal; Dr. Reddy's Russia business

Jiangsu Hengrui has launched Luzsana Biotechnology to serve the U.S., European and Japanese markets. Merck & Co. has signed on a cancer project from a Chinese company in a deal worth up to $1.4 billion. Dr. Reddy's saw a huge boost to its Russia business during the last quarter as Western pharmas retreat from the country because of its invasion of Ukraine. 

1. 'Startup like no other': China's Hengrui launches Luzsana with Big Pharma veterans at the top and a goal to improve drug access

Chinese pharma giant Jiangsu Hengrui Pharmaceuticals is launching Luzsana Biotechnology targeted at serving the global market. The unit debuts with a pipeline of 11 drugs from the parent, led by China-approved PD-1 inhibitor camrelizumab. The company’s unique operating model could “quantifiably reduce costs” of its medicines, CEO Scott Filosi said. Filosi was recently with Merck KGaA’s EMD Serono, and Luzsana’s chief medical officer, Joseph Eid, M.D., previously served at Bristol Myers Squibb.

2. Merck to pay up to $1.4B in cancer deal with Kelun, but details are scarce

Merck & Co. is paying China’s Kelun Pharma $47 million upfront in a licensing deal potentially worth up to $1.4 billion. Merck is in-licensing ex-China rights to a large-molecule cancer program. Details of the asset remain unknown. Kelun has more than a dozen oncology programs in various stages of development.

3. After Big Pharma pulls back in Russia, Dr. Reddy's says business is booming

While many Western biopharma companies are winding down their business in Russia, India’s Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories has stepped in to fill the void. During the previous quarter, Dr. Reddy’s sales in Russia jumped 70% year over year. Co-chairman and Managing Director GV Prasad said stocking of medicines during the early days of the Ukraine crisis contributed to the growth.

4. Otsuka drops beleaguered Akebia after FDA snub. Will AstraZeneca follow suit with FibroGen?

Otsuka has told Akebia Therapeutics that it wants out from their vadadustat licensing deals for U.S., Europe and other regions. Otsuka is accusing Akebia of material breaches in the U.S. deal and is asking for an early exit, though Akebia disagrees. The termination comes after the FDA in March rejected vadadustat in chronic kidney disease anemia. Akebia also faces a delisting risk as its stock price fell below $1.

5. After high-profile US rejection for roxadustat, Astellas touts its safety in new pooled analysis

Meanwhile, roxadustat, a rival to vadadustat, is trumpeting some safety data in an attempt to combat an FDA analysis that flagged cardiovascular risks, which eventually led to the drug’s rejection in the U.S. Roxa’s European marketer, Astellas, said a pooled analysis of four phase 3 trials found roxa was as safe as existing erythropoietin therapies on the risk of cardiovascular side effects or death.

6. Bristol Myers sells NY biologics plant for $160M to fuel Lotte's drugmaking ambitions

South Korean conglomerate Lotte is shelling out $160 million for a Bristol Myers Squibb plant in New York. The facility will become the center for Lotte’s biologics CDMO efforts in the U.S., multiple outlets have reported. Lotte will continue to manufacture biologics for BMS from the plant and will inherit its existing assets and employees.

7. Trial for controversial China-made Alzheimer's drug aborted as capital raise hits snag, COVID hurts sales

A China-approved Alzheimer’s disease drug, made by Shanghai’s Green Valley Pharmaceuticals, likely won’t reach the U.S. market anytime soon. The company has terminated a global phase 3 trial after failing to secure enough funding. COVID outbreaks hurt the drug’s China sales, and a biopharma “capital winter” created a hostile environment for raising money, the company said.

8. Shionogi splashes $100M on F2G's rare fungal disease drug to unlock new class of medicine

Shionogi is betting $100 million upfront on F2G’s antifungal drug olorofim. The deal involves up to $380 million in milestones and gives Shionogi rights to sell the drug for invasive aspergillosis in Asia and Europe. If approved, olorofim could open a new antifungal class: the orotomides.

9. J&J debuts rap video, enlists Bollywood star to recruit young people for India’s TB fight

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen India has rolled out a rap music video for its #BeTheChangeForTB campaign that targets the adolescents and young adults who are vulnerable to tuberculosis. The project enlists actress Vaani Kapoor and rapper Kaam Bhaari, both youth icons in India.

10. Mitsubishi Tanabe scores FDA nod for oral version of its ALS drug Radicava

The FDA has signed off on an oral formulation of Mitsubishi Tanabe’s amyotrophic lateral sclerosis therapy Radicava. The drug was initially approved in the U.S. in 2017 as an infusion that’s given 10 days a month. Now, the new version can be taken at home and potentially through a feeding tube.