Chinese biopharma companies are eyeing strategic collaborations with western counterparts to leverage their extensive networks and commercial capabilities to promote indigenously developed drugs in China, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. 

China-based Luye Pharma Group’s holding subsidiary Boan Biotech signed an agreement with AstraZeneca China in May 2021 regarding the promotion rights to the anticancer drug Boyounuo (biosimilar of Roche’s Bevacizumab Injection), under which Boan will grant exclusive promotion rights to AstraZeneca across 21 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions of China.

Earlier this year, Shanghai-based Junshi Biosciences entered into exclusive agreement with AstraZeneca China for the promotion rights of toripalimab in mainland China for urothelial carcinoma.

Ms. Bhavani Nelavelly, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “China has the largest number of cancer patients globally and the country’s policy reforms foster innovative oncology drug development. However, domestic companies lack experience in marketing the branded drugs because of historical experience in marketing generic drugs. The strategic collaborations with western companies will enable them in using their strong commercial capabilities in promoting and establishing the China indigenous medicines.”

In recent times, there is an increase in collaboration between western companies and innovative domestic Chinese players in all areas including R&D, commercialization, co-promotions. Along with the government policies driving the innovative drug development, promotion agreements with western companies will help in leveraging their leadership position. It will be another positive step in making indigenous drugs available to patients and doctors in China. 

Chinese products have strong advantage in terms of pricing as the local products are promoted through the NRDL in China, which is in turn driving the R&D investment and subsequently leading to innovative drug development.

According to GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center, currently the oncology pipeline for innovative drugs developed by Chinese companies includes 580 drugs across pre-registration, Phases III, II, I stages.

Ms. Nelavelly concludes: “Collaborating with western companies and channelizing their commercial capabilities will facilitate better penetration of indigenous drugs. Currently there are a smaller number of deals for the promotion of indigenous drugs, but this is expected to grow significantly with increase in development of innovative oncology drugs in China.

“It appears that Chinese companies are preferring to partner with western companies over local Chinese companies where the western company will get the marketing permit in the key markets. AstraZeneca has a long history of marketing in China, and this makes a win-win partnership, which leads to volume growth in the country.”