French pharma player Sanofi have invested $80 million in JHL Biotech, with a view to developing biosimilars for the Chinese and international market. The new partnership could be worth as much as $236 million in milestone payments and royalties to JHL, with Sanofi paying $21 million upfront for exclusive Chinese rights to JHL’s Rituxan biosimilar and other pipeline drugs.
JHL, founded by US biotech veterans with the express purpose of breaking into the Chinese market, already has a state of the art biogenetics manufacturing plant at its research center in Hsinchu, Taiwan. GE Healthcare, who manufacture biologics facilities at their German factory before assembling on site, have recently completed a facility for JHL in Wuhan, China, and this will come online as part of the Sanofi deal.
While JHL look after development, manufacturing and registration of their products, Sanofi will commercialize them in the Chinese market with an aim to providing affordable, high-quality medicines to Chinese patients. Sanofi are rumored to be in talks with Swiss biotech firm Actelion after negotiations with US Pharma giant J&J fell through. It indicates the French company’s intent to expand beyond China and into other international markets.
Sanofi announced as their short term goal the acceleration of JHL pipeline products, with a longer term ambition to bring more products to the Chinese market and then to market them internationally. The structure of the agreement has options for global marketing rights, according to a company spokesman.
For their part, JHL chose to partner with Sanofi because of their global profile and proven track record operating in China. Sanofi have had a presence in the country since 1982 and have a staff of over 9,000 locally. They already have several oncology products on the Chinese National Reimbursement Drug List. JHL announced they planned to file a Chinese CTA for JHL 1101 in the near future.
South Korea’s Celltrion also have a Rituxan biosimilar in the pipeline which recently cleared a phase III trial. Celltrion and their partner Hospira (now owned by Pfizer) have already enjoyed European success with a biosimilar for J&J’s blockbuster arthritis product Remicade.
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