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Happy Tuesday and welcome back to STAT China. In this edition, two more Hong Kong IPO filings, Beijing’s latest drug price cuts, and a renewed patent feud in the genomics space.

Hong Kong IPO market heats up

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Two more Chinese biotechs have lined up to go public on the Hong Kong stock exchange as investors continue to be bullish on the sector, shrugging off U.S.-China tensions and a global pandemic.

Last week, JW Therapeutics and Harbour BioMed both submitted an IPO application to the exchange. JW’s listing is expected to raise between $200 million to $300 million, while Shanghai-based Harbour BioMed is planning to fetch as much as $300 million from its IPO, according to some reports.

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JW, the joint venture between Juno Therapeutics and WuXi AppTec, plans to use the bulk of the capital to continue the development of its core CAR-T cell therapy, relmacabtagene autoleucel, or JWCAR029. The anti-CD19 cancer therapy is being studied in five types of leukemia. In June, the company submitted the drug to the National Medical Products Administration for approval as a third-line treatment for diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL).

Meanwhile, Harbour BioMed plans to fund its anchor assets, which include autoimmune disorder therapy batoclimab (HBM9161), drug eye disease drug tanfanercept (HBM9036), and HBM4003, the company’s core cancer therapy. In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the company the go-ahead to start clinical trials for the anti-CTLA-4 antibody in treating advanced solid tumors.

China’s BGI Genomics gets sued again

A U.S.-China patent war continues.

California-based genomics company Illumina filed another lawsuit last week against its Chinese rival, BGI Genomics, over alleged patent infringement, this time in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported.

The U.S. biotech accuses the Shenzhen-based company’s subsidiaries of infringing on a Hong Kong patent related to Covid-19 testing. The Hong Kong government recently announced that the city is launching a universal testing plan to offer all residents one free Covid-19 test. BGI is one of three Chinese laboratories recruited to help with the city-wide, voluntary testing program.

According to a court filing, the patent, called “Modified Nucleotides for Polynucleotide Sequencing,” protects rights to a technique related to next-generation sequencing.

Illumina’s lawsuit seeks to stop BGI from conducting its testing, as well as manufacturing, stocking, supplying, selling, and using test kits that involve the patent.

Since March last year, Illumina has sued BGI on multiple occasions over patent issues in different countries. In June, a U.S. federal court issued a preliminary injunction against BGI companies that prohibits them from launching its sequencing instruments and reagents in the country.

Drug price halved in China’s latest bulk buying scheme

China’s latest bulk purchasing of drugs resulted in pharma companies cutting prices by an average of 53%, and as much as 95%, according to state-owned media outlet Xinhua.

The national procurement program pits drug manufacturers making the same products against each other to secure public hospital supply contracts. With contracts for 55 types of medicines up for grabs, this year’s bidding process attracted 189 companies, with both global and domestic pharma companies competing primarily on product price.

Among the medications purchased in bulk were AstraZeneca’s heart disease drug Brilinta and Pfizer/Bristol Myers Squibb’s anticoagulant treatment Eliquis. Both contracts were won by Chinese manufacturers.

Beijing has been piloting a bulk buying approach to secure the country’s medicine stockpile. Last year, the State Council said it intends to expand the program further to include more drug types, particularly generic medicines with considerable price gaps with the brand name versions.

Herceptin copycat arrives

China’s National Medical Products Administration has approved the country’s first biosimilar for Herceptin, Roche’s blockbuster cancer therapy.

Shanghai Henlius Biotech announced last week that its trastuzumab biosimilar, HLX02, is now approved in China to treat patients with HER2-positive breast cancer and HER2-positive metastatic gastric cancer, making it the first Chinese-developed monoclonal antibody biosimilar to be approved in both China and the EU.

The arrival of HLX02 is a blow to Roche’s Herceptin. In its latest quarterly update, the Swiss drug maker said its overall product sales have been impacted by increasing competition from biosimilars and the impact of Covid-19. Growth in China was also partially offset by China’s National Drug Reimbursement List price cuts, the company said.

Innovent, Hua Medicine land lucrative deals

Innovation is paying off for a pair of Chinese biotechs, with both landing licensing deals for their home-grown medicines.

Diabetes-focused Hua Medicine has partnered with Bayer — the manufacturer of Glucobay — to commercialize its novel diabetes treatment dorzagliatin in China. Two months ago, the glucokinase activator cleared its Phase 3 clinical trial, bringing the therapy closer to a market approval by the end of the year. As part of the deal, Bayer will get exclusive rights to commercialize dorzagliatin in China. Hua will receive an upfront payment of about $43 million and a little over $600 million in additional payments upon achieving certain milestones.

Meanwhile, Innovent Biologics and Eli Lilly have agreed to expand their licensing agreement for Tyvyt, Innovent’s PD-1 drug. Lilly will now have exclusive rights to the drug outside of China and plans to pursue approval in the U.S. and in other markets, a statement said. In exchange, Innovent gets $29 million upfront and potentially $119 million more in development and commercial milestone payments, in addition to royalties.

More reads

  • Peru, Morocco to test China Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 3 trial (Reuters)
  • China is performing ‘unauthorised’ Covid vaccine trials on foreign workers in Papua New Guinea (VICE)
  • JD.com’s 1-year-old health unicorn to get $830M from Hillhouse (TechCrunch)
  • Chinese Dizal Pharma raises $100M from Lilly Asia, Sequoia (DealStreetAsia)
  • China’s high-stakes vaccine moment (Axios)

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