Fierce Pharma Asia—Moderna's new vax plant; Lilly-Junshi COVID-19 cocktail's emergency nod; AZ's Hong Kong incubator

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Moderna, Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca made our news this week. (Google)

Moderna is discussing plans for a new $200 million vaccine production plant with the South Korean government. The FDA granted emergency authorization to Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody cocktail, which includes an asset licensed from China’s Junshi Biosciences. AstraZeneca joined forces with Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks to set up an incubator for startups working to improve the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. And more.

1. Moderna sets sights on $200M vaccine factory in Seoul: report

After inking supply contracts for its COVID-19 vaccine in Japan and South Korea, Moderna is looking to expand its manufacturing capacity with a new site in the region. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company is in talks with the South Korean government to invest $200 million into a vaccine production plant in the country. It is unclear when the facility will come online, but it would join sites run by Moderna partners including Lonza, Catalent and Takeda that are already cranking out vaccine doses.

2. Eli Lilly scores FDA nod for COVID-19 antibody cocktail, aims to make 1M doses by midyear

The FDA granted emergency authorization to Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody cocktail for patients whose disease is mild or moderate but are at risk of progressing to severe disease. The combination includes etesevimab, an antibody licensed from China’s Junshi Biosciences, and bamlanivimab, which Lilly developed after it was discovered by partner AbCellera and colleagues at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

3. AstraZeneca partners to set up Hong Kong biotech incubator

AstraZeneca teamed up with Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP) to set up an incubation program for startups working to improve the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. Startups accepted into the program will have access to the laboratories and other working space at HKSTP as well as up to HK$6 million ($770,000) and support services including opportunities to meet with potential partners and investors.

4. India's Cadila saddled with more COVID-19 vaccine orders than it can fill

Cadila Healthcare’s COVID-19 vaccine may still be in the clinic, but the demand for doses has already outstripped the company’s capacity to make them. The company is on the hunt for partners to hit a production target of 200 million doses and is building a production facility for 120 million of them, which should be ready for commercial operations around April 2022. That coincides with its predicted timeline for a late-stage data readout on the shot, which was recently approved to start phase 3 trials in India.

5. Fresenius Kabi unit admits it hid records from FDA inspectors—and settles with DOJ for $50M

Fresenius Kabi Oncology agreed to pay a $30 million fine, forfeit another $20 million and plead guilty to concealing and destroying records ahead of a 2013 FDA inspection in Kalyani, India. The company also promised to set up compliance and ethics programs to prevent future violations in its cancer drug manufacturing process, including regular reports to the Department of Justice.

6. Drug Farm bags $56M to take novel hepatitis B drug into humans

Sino-American biotech Drug Farm reeled in $56 million to push its lead hepatitis B treatment into the clinic. The company is built on a way to generate libraries of genetic mutations in mice and analyze the animals for insights into potential drug targets linked to host immunity. Besides hep B, the company is applying the approach to other liver diseases as well as to cancer and a rare form of blindness.