The latest pharma and healthcare news from APAC, including Celltrion’s plans to sell its Takeda portfolio to CBC; reforms to the South Korean national insurance system that may lead to shorter reimbursement timelines; Novartis’ early-stage HDAC6 Inhibitor deal with Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceutical; Astellas Pharma’s gastric cancer FDA fail; Daiichi Sankyo and Esperion Therapeutics’ dispute settlement, and GC Biopharma’s new Indonesian blood products plant.


Celltrion to sell portfolio of Takeda drugs to CBC Group (The Korea Economic Daily)

South Korea’s Celltrion Inc. will divest of a portfolio of Takeda Pharmaceutical’s prescription medicines sold in Asia to CBC Group, a Singapore-based investment firm, according to sources familiar with the matter on Monday. It is also in the final stages of talks to sell the exclusive domestic sales rights for some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs of the Japanese company to a large Korean pharmaceutical firm, the sources said.


Reform in South Korea means progression in improving time to reimbursement (Pharmaceutical Technology)

South Korea has been busy with a series of reforms that aim to accelerate the time it takes to introduce new innovative drugs into its national insurance system. The country has been known for its stringent reimbursement conditions, with manufacturers often needing to undergo several attempts to secure reimbursement approval for their products. GlobalData has therefore compared the average time (in days) it takes branded drugs to be reimbursed after receiving their approval in South Korea compared to other advanced countries, including Japan, Australia, the UK, and Spain.


Novartis Inks Potential $1.3B Contract with Korean Biotech for Small Molecule (BioSpace)

Novartis on Monday inked a technology export contract with Korean biotech company Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceutical for an early-stage HDAC6 Inhibitor, according to Korea Biomedical Review. Under the agreement, Novartis will make an upfront payment of $80 million and pledge up to nearly $1.23 billion more in development and regulatory milestones. The Korean biotech will also remain eligible to future sales-based royalties, as well as an ongoing technology fee depending on net sales.


14 Korean drugmakers clinch 17 licensing deals in 2023 (Korea Biomedical Review)

The 14 companies include, Daewoong Pharmaceutical, Chong Kun Dang, Orum Therapeutics, GC Cell, HK inno.N, ISU Abxis, GenKore, CHA Biotech, Onconic Therapeutics, Biorchestra, ImmunoForge, SK biopharmaceuticals, GI Innovation, PinotBio. The combined value of these deals, including milestones and other payments, is estimated to be a whopping 5.6 trillion won ($4.3 billion).


US FDA declines to approve Astellas’ gastric cancer drug (Reuters)

Japan’s Astellas Pharma said on Monday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declined to approve its experimental drug to treat a type of gastric cancer, citing issues related to a third-party manufacturer. The FDA has not raised any concerns related to the clinical data, and is not requesting additional clinical studies, Astellas said.


AGC extends CDMO expansion spree, plans second manufacturing facility in Japan (Fierce Pharma)

Already with a manufacturing site in Chiba, Japan, AGC Biologics is doubling down on its presence in the country with a new facility in Yokohama.

The Seattle-based CDMO has unveiled its plan to construct a four-story complex, which will cover 20,000 square meters (215,000 square feet) and is expected to become operational in 2026. It will support preclinical through commercial production for mammalian-based protein biologics, cell therapies and messenger RNA therapies, AGC said.


Japan’s Ono Pharma enters into research collaboration with UK Dementia Research Institute (BioSpectrum Asia)

Japan-based Ono Pharmaceutical has entered into a research collaboration agreement with UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI), a national institute that dedicates research on dementia, to identify the novel therapeutic targets in the research field of dementia.

In this collaboration, as part of the promotion of the ongoing open innovation, Ono will initiate a multi-year collaborative research with UK DRI to identify novel therapeutic targets related to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dementia.


Nexletol partners Esperion and Daiichi Sankyo patch up milestone dispute with $125M settlement (Fierce Pharma)

After a dispute over milestone payments derailed a 2019 heart med collaboration, Daiichi Sankyo and Esperion Therapeutics have mended fences with a $125 million settlement.

Under the new agreement, Daiichi will pay Esperion $100 million in the coming weeks before an anticipated label expansion in Europe for their bempedoic acid products Nilemdo and Nustendi, which are branded as Nexletol and Nexlizet, respectively, in the U.S.

ADB provides $450 M loan to boost Philippines’ Universal Healthcare programme (BioSpectrum Asia)

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $450 million policy-based loan to help the Philippines strengthen health policy reforms and further improve Filipinos’ access to medicines and health services, sustain universal healthcare (UHC) coverage, and increase financing for UHC.

The Build Universal Health Care Programme (Sub programme 2) is helping scale up the government’s efforts to implement key reforms under the UHC Act of 2019. These reforms include sustainable financing for UHC, the integrated delivery of quality health services, and the interoperability of health information systems.


GC Biopharma breaks ground on blood product plant in Indonesia (The Korea Economic Daily)

South Korea’s GC Biopharma Corp. broke ground on Wednesday on Indonesia’s first blood product plant through technology transfer.

Indonesian pharmaceutical companies PT Triman and PT Medquest Jaya Global held a groundbreaking ceremony for the blood product factory in Jababeka Industrial Estate, 35 km east of Jakarta, on the previous day.

The plant will be constructed with transferred technologies from GC Biopharma. It aims to process up to 400,000 liters of raw plasma annually on a 40,000-square-meter site, targeting operation by 2027.


ImmunoScape & Experimental Drug Development Centre ink cell therapy partnership in Singapore (BioSpectrum Asia)

Singapore-based biotech startup ImmunoScape has announced a partnership with the Experimental Drug Development Centre (EDDC), Singapore’s national platform for drug discovery and development hosted by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

ImmunoScape’s core antigen-specific T cell immune profiling technology was developed at A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network and is exclusively licensed from A*STAR. Since its spinout from A*STAR in 2016, ImmunoScape has developed a cutting-edge, high-throughput, T cell receptors (TCR) discovery platform that produces a broad and emerging portfolio of novel, safe, and efficacious TCRs against solid tumours.