China's WuXi PharmaTech, Gilead focus on analytical testing in wider partnership

Shanghai-based WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) has opened a door for Gilead Sciences ($GILD) in China that comes as the California-based maker of blockbuster hepatitis C drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni looks to expand in Asia, and particularly in China, for its leading therapies.

Under a partnership agreement, WuXi will equip and operate a 12,500-square-foot cGMP-compliant analytical testing facility and laboratory for Gilead's investigational small-molecule candidates to support global marketing applications, extending a working relationship several years old, the companies said in a press release.

"This strategic partnership further strengthens our close, broad-based collaboration with Gilead over many years," said Ge Li, chairman and CEO of the company, which is soon to be delisted from the U.S. market.

WuXi CEO Ge Li

"WuXi is determined to enable our innovative partners like Gilead through our open-access R&D platform, and we are very honored to help advance some of the most innovative medicines faster to patients."

In the Oct. 27 third-quarter earnings call, Gilead detailed the fast pace of its hepatitis C gains in Japan since launches in May and September and said plans for faster global expansion were afoot, centered on Asia.

In China, Gilead is in talks on pricing for Sovaldi as the country stands outside of an access program by the U.S. drugmaker that relies heavily on manufacturing and sales licensing to mostly India-based companies.

The discussions are also held against a backdrop of China seeking to expand insurance access for serious illness coverage--in a place where Gilead does not yet have regulatory approval.

Paul Carter, executive vice president of commercial operations, said during the third-quarter earnings call that HCV sales outside of the U.S. were just shy of $1 billion.

"For the rest of the world, which includes Japan, product revenues were $958 million," he said. "Beginning with hepatitis C, we continue to be pleased with the number of patients we are reaching with Sovaldi and Harvoni which are now approved in 57 and 44 countries, respectively."

The revenues outside the U.S., Carter said, represent a major growth opportunity.

- here's the release