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Fierce Pharma Asia—BeiGene-Novartis PD-1 deal; Sinovac vaccine; Celltrion antibody COVID-19 data

January 15, 2021 Angus Liu


Novartis plunked down up to $2.2 billion for BeiGene’s China-approved PD-1 drug tislelizumab to complement its own checkpoint inhibitor. Hear what BeiGene CEO John Oyler has to say about tislelizumab’s position in and outside China. Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine reported confusing data from Brazil, raising doubt about its true efficacy. Celltron’s anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody improved patients’ outcomes in a phase 2/3 trial. And more.

1. Novartis lays out $650M-plus for BeiGene’s tislelizumab as its own PD-1 fails to impress

Novartis paid $650 million upfront and committed up to $1.55 billion in milestones to license certain rights to BeiGene’s PD-1 inhibitor tislelizumab in major markets outside China. The Swiss pharma is not abandoning its own checkpoint inhibitor spartalizumab despite a recent phase 3 trial failure; instead, it views the two PD-1s as “complementary.”

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2. What do Novartis deal, PD-1 competition in China mean for tislelizumab? Here’s what BeiGene’s CEO has to say

BeiGene retains the right to co-market tislelizumab in North America. The Novartis deal gives the Chinese biotech a chance to get help “learning how to commercialize and build some capabilities” beyond China, BeiGene CEO John Oyler said in an interview. He believes the drug could compete in Asian-prevalent cancer types and its value in large indications will show over time. The CEO also believes the PD-1/L1 class has reached a pricing sweet spot in China where additional major price cuts aren’t likely.

3. Matching Sinopharm, fellow Chinese biotech Sinovac sees 78% COVID-19 vaccine efficacy

New Brazil data show disappointing 50.4% efficacy for China’s CoronaVac vaccine (Reuters)

Brazilian researchers first said Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, was 78% effective in a local phase 3 trial. But then, a few days ago, they released new data of just 50.4% efficacy. The gap was caused by the omission of “very mild” infections in the previous data. The misstep led to criticism of the trial organization, Brazil’s Butantan biomedical center, as well as suspicion about CoronaVac’s true efficacy. Turkey just authorized the shot for emergency use based on a reported 91.25% efficacy in an interim analysis of its local trial.

4. Celltrion’s COVID-19 antibody improves outcomes in phase 2

Celltrion’s anti-coronavirus antibody helped patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in a phase 2/3 clinical trial. Top-line data from 327 subjects showed CT-P59 cut the risk of progression to severe disease by 54%, shortened time to clinical recovery and reduced viral load. The Korean company has filed for conditional marketing authorization in its home country and aims for U.S. and European go-aheads in the coming months.

5. JPM: Viatris CEO trumpets ‘disciplined’ deal-making for postmerger roadmap

A strong presence in China has been featured as a key asset for Mylan’s acquisition of Pfizer’s Upjohn. While recent volume-based procurement programs have hit the combined new company, Viatris, hard, CEO Michael Goettler said it has found the right solutions, including investing in retail channels. He also touted Viatris as a partner of choice in China with an “absolute premium infrastructure.”



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