Fierce Pharma Asia—Merck's Romanelli returns; Sanofi's 'factory of the future'; Fujifilm's $450M contract

Merck's former China head will return to the Big Pharma to lead international human health operations after a short stint at a Chinese company. Sanofi has kicked off construction of a new modern vaccine production plant in Singapore. Fujifilm secured a $450 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense for its endoscopy technologies and related services. Plus more.

1. Merck vet Romanelli returns as international human health chief after brief stint as CEO at Chinese drugmaker

Joseph Romanelli headed up Merck & Co.’s China operations from 2016 to 2021 before jumping ship to lead local firm JiXing Pharmaceuticals. Now, the 25-year Merck vet will return as the company's new chief of international human health in August. After former human health president Frank Clyburn left, Merck split up his responsibilities into three roles.

2. Sanofi tees off work on €400M 'factory of the future' in Singapore

Sanofi has started construction at one of its two planned Evolutive Vaccine Facilities. The Singapore facility is a fully digitalized and modular vaccine production plant. With 400 million euros ($434 million) of investment, the plant is expected to be complete by the end of 2025. Through the two sites—the other in France—Sanofi aims for “agile and flexible” production of several vaccine and biologics platforms.

3. Fujifilm lands $450M DOD contract to provide endoscopy tools, training to government hospitals

Fujifilm Healthcare Americas scored a $450 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense for an indefinite quantity of its medical technologies, including endoscopes and accompanying imaging software, plus training resources. The agreements will make Fujifilm’s endoscopy equipment available to all medical treatment facilities run by the federal government.

4. Oft-chided Lupin dinged by FDA at Indian pharmaceutical ingredients plant

Lupin landed in the FDA’s crosshairs once again. The company’s active pharmaceutical ingredient plant in Tarapur, India, has been served a Form 483 after an FDA inspection a few weeks ago. The regulator found problems in Lupin’s manufacturing processes and cleaning protocols, CNBC reported. It failed to set up in-process samples and controls and didn’t properly investigate the plant’s deficiencies.

5. AbbVie partner I-Mab explores potential sale: Bloomberg

I-Mab has attracted takeover interest from Big Pharma companies, and the Chinese biotech has tapped advisers for a strategic review, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The company could seek a sale of the entire company, a merger or a stake sale tied to partnerships on specific drugs, the news site said. The Chinese firm is collaborating with AbbVie on a CD47 antibody through a 2020 deal.

6. SK advances Gates-backed COVID-19 antiviral spray toward clinic

SK Bioscience is launching R&D work for a COVID-19 nasal spray which came from research at the University of Washington. The spray is designed to deliver a binder protein to create a protective layer inside the upper respiratory tract to block the virus. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the project through IAVI.

7. BeiGene nabs another PD-1 approval in China. Can partner Novartis carry the success to US and Europe?

BeiGene has scored an approval in China for PD-1 inhibitor tislelizumab in previously treated esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, the drug’s eighth indication in the country. The indication also serves as the drug’s initial registration filings in the U.S. and the EU, where BeiGene has partnered with Novartis.

8. AstraZeneca strengthens ties with Chinese cancer diagnostic developer AmoyDx

AstraZeneca has tapped Shanghai-based Amoy Diagnostic to develop companion tests for its Merck-partnered cancer drug Lynparza in China, Japan and the EU. Amoy previously developed a BRCA test and is working on a diagnostic for homologous recombination deficiency in ovarian cancer. The new pact focuses on prostate cancer.

9. Asahi Kasei scoops up CDMO Bionova, bolstering its antibody manufacturing capabilities

Asahi Kasei Medical is buying Bay Area biologics maker Bionova Scientific for an undisclosed price. The Japanese CDMO spoke highly of the target company’s process development capabilities and experience in producing next-generation antibody drugs such as antibody-drug conjugates and bispecifics.