Amgen augments Asia foothold by taking over Astellas joint venture in Japan
California-based Amgen, which does the bulk of its business in the United States, made its ambition to reinvigorate its growth prospects by expanding its presence in Asia clear at the sidelines of the JP Morgan healthcare conference in San Francisco earlier this month.
The Thousand Oaks-based company on Thursday executed its plan to dissolve the joint venture with Astellas — created in 2013 — to operate the unit independently in Japan. With its rapidly aging population, the region represents an appealing market for Amgen’s osteoporosis treatments Prolia and Evenity as well as a cholesterol-lowering injection Repatha.
Since its inception in 2013, the JV launched Repatha, Evenity and the leukemia drug Blincyto. On April 1, the JV — Amgen Astellas BioPharma — will change its name to Amgen KK, and the business’ headquarters will be relocated to Tokyo Midtown, Astellas said.
As pricing pressure and biosimilar competition in the United States begins to take its toll on the four-decade-old company’s bottom line, Amgen expects a quarter of its growth to come from Asia — largely Japan and China — over the next decade, chief Robert Bradway told Reuters earlier this month.
The company continues to see volume-based growth in Europe, Bradway said. Akin to European nations, both Japan and China negotiate prices for drugs paid for by state-operated health plans.
Last October, Amgen took a $2.7 billion stake in the Beijing-based biotech BeiGene, securing a key ally in the second-biggest drug market globally. China has emerged as a key market for drugs designed to treat autoimmune disease and cancer due to pollution and lofty rates of smoking. Officials have also carved out a pathway for the fast-track approval of drugs supported by solid overseas clinical data and are granting priority reviews.
Growth in China’s biologics market has surpassed the global biologics market and is expected to reach $189.4 billion in sales by 2030, Chinese biotech I-Mab said as it preps a $100+ million Nasdaq IPO, citing a Frost & Sullivan report.
Amgen will lay out its expectations for 2020 on January 30, when it reports its fourth-quarter results. The company will unlikely issue its five-year financial plans — as it has done in the past — partly due to “a much more uncertain environment,” Bradway told Reuters.
Having successfully rebuffed a generic challenge to its flagship autoimmune disease drug Enbrel last year, Amgen can look forward to a catalyst-rich 2020. Apart from its own burgeoning biosimilars pipeline, key late-stage data on Otezla — which Amgen acquired for an eye-popping $13.4 billion from Celgene — is still to come in addition to pivotal data on the company’s AstraZeneca-partnered asthma drug tezepelumab and heart failure therapy omecamtiv mecarbil. There’s also a keenly-anticipated readout for its KRAS drug, AMG 510.