A roundup of some of the biggest healthcare and pharma news from China, including the country’s struggle with a rampant COVID-19 outbreak and the external concern that surrounds it, China Meheco’s Paxlovid contract, Boston Scientific’s majority stake in Chinese medtech Acotec, Gracell Biotechnologies’ CAR-T therapy phase I trial 100 percent response rate and Pfizer’s opt-in rights to LianBio’s RSV candidate.


Chinese cities struggle with rapid spread of COVID-19 (Financial Times)

COVID-19 is spreading through China’s biggest cities, causing widespread medicine shortages and exposing a lack of preparation after authorities reversed zero-COVID controls, which included lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing — with little forewarning.

Pharmacies in Shanghai, Shenzhen and other cities are reportedly sold out of fever medicine and COVID-19 tests.


The world fears a new China COVID-19 wave (Reuters)

Outside of China, officials and global health experts are monitoring the COVID-19 surge there, worried the nation is not sufficiently vaccinated and may not have the healthcare tools to treat a wave of illness that could kill more than one million people through 2023.

President Xi Jinping has long insisted that the country is equipped to handle the disease, and that Chinese vaccines are superior to western counterparts, despite evidence to the contrary. Governments are in a difficult spot diplomatically, wanting to help stem the crisis and its global and domestic health and economic implications in a way that the Chinese government might be willing to accept.


China Meheco to distribute Pfizer’s COVID treatment in China (Reuters)

China Meheco Group has signed an agreement with Pfizer to import and distribute its COVID-19 treatment, Paxlovid, in mainland China, an agreement that will be valid between Dec. 14 and Nov. 30, 2023. Paxlovid was approved by China in February and according to Chinese media has been available through hospitals to treat high-risk patients in several provinces.


GS Biotech completes nearly CNY 100 million in pre-A round financing (BioSpectrum Asia Edition)

GS Biotech has announced the completion of its nearly CNY 100 million pre-A round financing, led by Legend Capital. The proceeds will be mainly used for the capacity expansion of core pipeline products 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) and 2,5-tetrahydrofuran dimethanol (THFDM), and the continuous development of downstream derivatives.


Pfizer opts in for LianBio’s RSV candidate for USD 20 million (Endpoints)

Pfizer has “opted in” to secure the rights to LianBio’s sisunatovir, a Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) candidate in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. The oral drug is designed to inhibit the “F-mediated fusion” with the host cell and is being tested to treat RSV in children and adults.

Under the terms of the opt-in rights to sisunatovir, LianBio will receive a USD 20 million upfront payment from Pfizer, part of the previously “restricted cash” paid by the company to LianBio in 2020, under an existing collaboration between the two companies.


Boston Scientific picks stake in Chinese medtech Acotec for USD 523 M (BioSpectrum Asia Edition)

Boston Scientific is set to make an offer to acquire a majority stake of some 65 percent in Chinese medtech Acotec. The proposed price is HKD 20 per share, which represents a total upfront cash payment of approximately USD 523 million.

Acotec is a leader in innovative medical solutions, including drug-coated balloons (DCBs), radiofrequency ablation technologies and thrombus aspiration catheters. In 2016, the company launched the first peripheral DCB in China after receiving approval from the National Medical Products Administration.


Gracell’s BCMA/CD19 dual-targeting CAR-T therapy 100 percent response rate (Fierce Pharma)

Five years after Legend Biotech reported an initial 100 percent tumor response rate for what would later become Johnson & Johnson-partnered Carvykti, another Chinese company has repeated the same data for its BCMA-targeted CAR-T therapy in an earlier multiple myeloma setting.

Gracell Biotechnologies’ BCMA/CD19 dual-targeting CAR-T therapy, GC012F, shrank tumors in all 16 patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma in a single-arm phase 1 trial in China, the company shared at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 2022 annual meeting. Gracell is talking to the FDA to start a clinical trial in both the US and China among patients with previously treated multiple myeloma.


Innovent gets Chinese rights to LG Chem’s gout disease treatment for almost USD 100 million (Fierce Pharma)

Innovent has acquired the Chinese rights to LG Chem’s phase 3 gout disease treatment for nearly USD 100 million. The agreement gives Innovent exclusive Chinese rights to tigulixostat, a non-purine xanthine oxidase inhibitor that manages the buildup of uric acid in patients with gout.

The approval potential of the drug is particularly attractive given that the prevalence of hyperuricemia in China could be as high as 13.3 percent of the population.


Thermo Fisher opens the doors to a new facility in China (Endpoints)

Thermo Fisher has recently boosted its production capacity, opening a new facility in Hangzhou, China to increase biologic and sterile medicine development and build manufacturing capacity in the Asia-Pacific region.

The 80,000-square-foot facility will offer clinical and commercial drug substance and product manufacturing, including capabilities for producing cell lines, biologics and drug substances, and fill-finish abilities. The facility contains a 2,000-liter bioreactor, but in the future, it will eventually have a 5,000-liter bioreactor and a packaging area as well.