China vows to continue speeding up drug approvals, expand tax cuts; Sorrento/Yuhan JV receives $40M financing

→ In the latest move to spur introduction of new medicines, China has announced it will reduce the value-add tax on 21 rare disease drugs the same way it offered tax breaks to imported cancer drugs in April 2018. While good news to all drugmakers, the change is expected to benefit international companies more than domestic ones “because they are running ahead on developing drugs for rare diseases,” an analyst tells Bloomberg.

In a State Council meeting, Premier Keqiang Li reiterated the government’s goal of accelerating approval of new cancer drugs, lowering prices and broadening insurance coverage. Proposed policies include convening an expert panel to identify urgently needed overseas drugs (resulting perhaps in another VIP list), improving import policies and updating national medical reimbursement lists more frequently.

→ Two years after San Diego-based Sorrento Therapeutics and Korea’s Yuhan founded ImmuneOncia to develop checkpoint inhibitors, the joint venture is bringing in a third investor. Private equity fund Paratus is providing $40 million to bankroll Phase I and II studies of IMC-001, a PD-L1, in exchange for a 29.3% stake. ImmuneOncia, which received a pre-money valuation of $95 million in the deal, expects to be “sufficiently funded” until a planned IPO in 2021.

Dermira $DERM has inked a deal with Barcelona’s Almirall to pick up European rights to lebrikizumab for $30 million upfront. Almirall will wait until the Phase IIb data are out to decide whether to exercise the option, which will cost another $50 million. Lebrikizumab, an IL-13 inhibitor, is designed to treat atopic dermatitis.

→ The burgeoning superbug crisis has sparked a clarion call for regulators to further incentivize antibiotic development. Cambridge, England-based Bicycle Therapeutics has received such an incentive — £496,000 ($640,000) — from the UK’s national health service to address antimicrobial resistance in humans. Bicycle will use its screening platform to develop inhibitors of penicillin binding proteins of key bacterial pathogens classified by the WHO as either “critical” or “high” threats as well as those that present a significant risk in UK hospitals.

With contribution by Natalie Grover.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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