Pharma JV brings new cancer drug to China

Updated: 2013-05-15 11:07

By Chris Davis in New York (China Daily)

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The planned joint venture announced between Zhejiang Beta Pharma Co and US-based biopharmaceutical-maker Amgen will include commercialization and distribution of an anti-cancer drug in China, according to Amgen.

"Amgen's 30-year track record of developing innovative medicines means we are well positioned to support the development of an 'ecosystem of innovation' in China's biotech industry," said Mary Klem, a spokeswoman for the Thousand Oaks, California, company.

The joint venture will focus on the introduction in the Chinese market of Amgen's colon-cancer drug Vectibix, which has been approved in 40 countries and is in late-stage clinical development in China.

Vectibix is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer and is classified as a "biologics," meaning it is derived from human cells. It was first approved for use in the US in 2006.

Ding Lieming, chairman of Zhejiang Beta, described the joint venture that was announced last week as having "long-term strategic significance not only for Zhejiang province, but also for the whole medical community in China".

"We share Amgen's passion for developing molecularly targeted therapies for unmet medical needs," Ding said, "and are confident that together we can help many Chinese patients who suffer from colorectal cancer."

Yinxiang Wang, CEO of Zhejiang Beta Pharma, called the joint venture "groundbreaking," adding that Beta was "pleased to be joining forces with Amgen in the war against cancer".

Klem said some Amgen medicines are available in China through partner companies, adding that Amgen is ready to expand its commitment to China by building a business there. Beta Pharma's oncology focus, as well its regulatory and commercial success, made the companies ideal partners, she said.

By working with Beta Pharma in China "we have an opportunity to reach patients more quickly and efficiently than we could do on our own", Klem said.

The joint venture will be called Amgen-Beta Pharmaceuticals Co and ownership will be 51/49, with Zhejiang Beta holding the higher share, pending approval by Chinese government authorities. Financial details of the agreement weren't disclosed.

Klem said that Amgen-Beta would be staffed by a combination ofnew hires and transfers with "the aim of leveraging each parties' particular areas of expertise." The joint venture will take advantage of Beta Pharma's infrastructure, including sales representatives in certain markets, she added.

In addition to building an "Amgen China team", the company recently opened a regulatory office in Beijing, in addition to its headquarters in Shanghai, Klem said.

"This joint venture brings us one step closer to providing Chinese patients with Amgen's medicines and supports our strategy of expanding in key, fast-growing markets," said Anthony C. Hooper, Amgen's executive vice-president.

"We see this as a clear way Amgen can help China achieve its goals for the biotech industry, as laid out in China's 12th Five Year Plan," Klem said.