Vas Narasimhan has high hopes for No­var­tis' Chi­na dri­ve as a block­buster drug gets a nod

No­var­tis has clinched a Chi­na ap­proval for its block­buster pso­ri­a­sis drug Cosen­tyx — the first of more than 10 nov­el med­i­cines that it plans to in­tro­duce in the coun­try with­in the next few years.

The ap­proval ar­rives just six months af­ter fil­ing and amid No­var­tis’ oth­er high-pro­file over­tures to es­tab­lish it­self as a key for­eign phar­ma play­er in Chi­na, from team­ing up with lo­cal biotechs and en­list­ing do­mes­tic tech gi­ant Ten­cent for dis­ease man­age­ment pro­grams to open­ing a new bio­med­ical re­search cen­ter in Bei­jing.

Speak­ing at the Chi­na De­vel­op­ment Fo­rum — a well at­tend­ed con­fab fea­tur­ing fel­low phar­ma boss­es like Al­bert Bourla and Olivi­er Brandi­court — a few days ago, No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan said thanks to on­go­ing reg­u­la­to­ry re­forms and sci­en­tif­ic ad­vances, he ex­pects Chi­na to be­come one of the top three mar­kets for No­var­tis by sales in the com­ing years.

“If I was asked a few years ago how the Chi­nese mar­ket is dif­fer­ent from the in­ter­na­tion­al mar­ket, I might have talked about many dif­fer­ences,” he told a lo­cal re­porter. “But these dif­fer­ences are dwin­dling. Chi­na’s drug in­dus­try and mar­ket are in­creas­ing­ly sim­i­lar to those in de­vel­oped coun­tries.”

Case in point: No­var­tis got NM­PA stamps on nine new drugs in the past two years alone, with a reg­u­la­to­ry time­line “at the same lev­el of what we see in the Unit­ed States or in Eu­rope,” he added in an in­ter­view with Chi­na Dai­ly.

Among the next slate of prod­ucts it plans to roll out, Narasimhan high­light­ed the po­ten­tial of cell and gene ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing No­var­tis’ pi­o­neer­ing CAR-T treat­ment for can­cer, Kym­ri­ah.

The high price tags of these cut­ting edge treat­ments, though, are bound to trig­ger new de­bates on pric­ing — and No­var­tis will be go­ing up against some en­trenched lo­cal play­ers in carv­ing out pieces of the mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar pie.

Take Shang­hai Jun­shi for ex­am­ple. The new­ly pub­lic biotech (on HKEX), which scored ap­proval for Chi­na’s first home­grown PD-1 in­hibitor, re­cent­ly came out with its own sales fore­cast for its drug Tuo Yi: They ex­pect sales to peak in three to four years and bring in an­nu­al rev­enue of $1.5 bil­lion to $2.2 bil­lion (RMB 10 bil­lion – 15 bil­lion). The prof­it mar­gin, CEO Li Ning said, should be no less than 90%, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by S&P Glob­al.

Fo­cus­ing on drugs that fill spe­cif­ic gaps, and ap­peal­ing to Chi­nese pa­tients, then, could be key. And that’s some­thing No­var­tis has al­lud­ed to in their an­nounce­ment of Cosen­tyx’s ap­proval, which was based part­ly on da­ta from tri­als con­duct­ed in Chi­na.

“The av­er­age on­set age of pso­ri­a­sis in Chi­na is around 30, and many of the mod­er­ate-to-se­vere pa­tients are in their prime. This pop­u­la­tion plays an ir­re­place­able role in their fam­i­ly, work­place and so­ci­ety. Thus, treat­ment with high ef­fi­ca­cy, a good safe­ty pro­file and long-last­ing dis­ease con­trol is what we are look­ing for to help pa­tients get back to nor­mal life and work,” Jianzhong Zhang, for­mer pres­i­dent of Chi­nese So­ci­ety of Der­ma­tol­ogy, Chi­nese Med­ical As­so­ci­a­tion, was quot­ed in the re­lease. “Pos­i­tive Chi­na da­ta pre­sent­ed re­cent­ly makes us hope­ful for the clin­i­cal use of se­cuk­inum­ab in Chi­na. I hope to see Chi­nese pa­tients ben­e­fit from this in­no­v­a­tive treat­ment and be re­lieved from their ill­ness bur­den.”

Im­age: Vas Narasimhan at CDF. NO­VAR­TIS

Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

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After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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The Advance Clinical leadership team: CEO Yvonne Lungershausen, Sandrien Louwaars - Director Business Development Operations, Gabriel Kremmidiotis - Chief Scientific Officer, Ben Edwards - Chief Strategy Officer

How Aus­tralia De­liv­ers Rapid Start-up and 43.5% Re­bate for Ear­ly Phase On­col­o­gy Tri­als

About Avance Clinical

Avance Clinical is an Australian owned Contract Research Organisation that has been providing high-quality clinical research services to the local and international drug development industry for 20 years. They specialise in working with biotech companies to execute Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials to deliver high-quality outcomes fit for global regulatory standards.

As oncology sponsors look internationally to speed-up trials after unprecedented COVID-19 suspensions and delays, Australia, which has led the world in minimizing the pandemic’s impact, stands out as an attractive destination for early phase trials. This in combination with the streamlined regulatory system and the financial benefits including a very favourable exchange rate and the R & D cash rebate makes Australia the perfect location for accelerating biotech clinical programs.

No­var­tis jumps in­to Covid-19 vac­cine hunt, as Big Phar­ma and big biotech com­mit to bil­lions of dos­es

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AveXis, the Swiss pharma’s gene therapy subsidiary, has agreed to manufacture the vaccine being developed by Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. The biotech will begin manufacturing this month, while the vaccine undergoes further preclinical testing. They’ve agreed to provide the vaccine for free for clinical trials beginning in the second half of 2020, but have not disclosed financials for after.

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Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

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David Hoey (Vaxxas)

In for the long vac­cine game, Mer­ck buys in­to patch de­liv­ery tech with pan­dem­ic po­ten­tial

When Merck dived into the R&D fray for a Covid-19 vaccine earlier this week, execs made it clear that they’re not necessarily looking to be first — with CEO Ken Frazier throwing cold water on the hotly-discussed 12- to 18-month timelines. But when it does emerge from behind, the pharma giant clearly expects to play a significant part.

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When Venrock partner Bryan Roberts went to check the results from their annual survey of healthcare leaders, what he found was an imprint of the pandemic’s slow arrival in America.

The venture firm had sent their form out to hundreds of insurance and health tech executives, investors, officials and academics on February 24 and gave them two weeks to fill it out. No Americans had died at that point but the coronavirus had become enough of a global crisis that they included two questions about the virus, including “Total U.S. deaths in 2020 from the novel coronavirus will be:”.

Stymied by the pan­dem­ic, Im­munomedic­s' new CEO bows out, tak­ing a mil­lion bucks plus perks as he heads out the vir­tu­al ex­it

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Word of the changeup arrived right after the market closed Wednesday.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

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