AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) has just increased its ties to the Chinese drugs market through a joint venture secured with WuXi AppTec (NYSE: WX). The two will collaborate in developing a new biotech medicine, thereby fast-tracking it to the market.
Under the terms of the deal, WuXi will supply all local regulatory, manufacturing, and pre-clinical and clinical trial support for the drug, while the joint venture partnership will take care of actual development and marketing.
MEDI-5117, an experimental treatment for inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, is currently in Phase I clinical development in both the U.S. and Europe. Thanks to the joint venture, similar trials can now be undertaken in China (the Chinese government mandates that medicines without approval in other markets be manufactured locally).
Bahija Jallal, head of research at AstraZeneca's biotech division MedImmune, said the move could see the drug launched four to six years earlier in China compared to the conventional route of getting an import license after approval in the West.
This is AstraZeneca’s first such joint venture and one of the first such projects initiated by a global company for biotech pharmaceuticals development in China. That country, of course, is of prime interest to pharmaceutical companies worldwide thanks to both an aging population and its enormous market size.
After Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), AstraZeneca is the second biggest multinational pharmaceutical firm in China.
AstraZeneca began its Chinese operations back in 1993; last quarter the company’s Chinese sales increased by 12 percent. The company has reserved options to acquire full rights to commercialize MEDI-5117 if it succeeds in clinical development.