In the spring of 2013, Roche teamed up with a 2-year-old biotech to commercialize one of its hepatitis C drugs in China without making much of a ripple in the biotech news cycle. Five years later, that young partner — Ascletis — has secured approval in China for the drug and clinched a $400 million IPO in the Hong Kong stock exchange, making history in both regards.
On the heels of a launch for Ganovo (danoprevir), the Swiss pharma giant is coming back for a second partnership.
The deal centers around Pegasys, a pegylated interferon widely used to treat both hep B and hep C. Roche is handing Ascletis an exclusive sales and marketing promotion right in mainland China, where the Hangzhou-based biotech will leverage its new commercial presence to revitalize a brand that’s been in the country for more than 15 years.
“With this new model of business, we will further enhance the clinical usage of Pegasys in Hepatitis treatment in order to benefit more patients,” said Hong Chow, general manager, Roche Pharma China.
Given Ascletis’ considerable efforts pushing Ganovo — the first direct-acting anti-viral agent developed by a domestic company in China — as a highly effective hep C cure, execs are likely more keen on Pegasys’ potential in hep B, a gigantic market with an estimated 86 million patients in China infected with HBV.
Meanwhile, Ascletis has a next-gen HCV treatment in-licensed from Roche, ravidasvir, lined up for priority review by Chinese regulators. Other drugs in the pipeline include HIV drug ASC09 and liver cancer therapy HASC06.
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