GlaxoSmithKline’s strategy of strengthening its presence in emerging markets has been highlighted by the setting-up of a joint venture in China to develop flu vaccines.

The firm has signed “an exclusive cooperation agreement” with Shenzhen Neptunus Interlong Bio-Technique Co, which is a preliminary step to forming a JV between the two companies. Specifically the venture will focus on developing seasonal influenza vaccines and pre-pandemic/pandemic flu jabs, initially targeting against strains of the virus specific to China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Once the JV is formed, GSK will put in $31 million in cash for a 40% stake in the JV, whilst NIBT will contribute the equivalent of $47 million in assets. Within five years, the UK-based drugs giant has the option to increase its equity interest to take a majority stake in the JV.

Jean Stephenne, head of GSK Biologicals, said the pact marks “another step in our strategy to build our vaccines presence in critical emerging markets”. He added that the JV will combine the potential of GSK’s adjuvant technology and expertise in vaccine development together with NIBT’s “extensive experience of the Chinese vaccines market and make use of their access to specific local influenza antigens”.

Lilly and Chi-Med unit expand collaboration
Staying with China, and Hutchison MediPharma, which is wholly-owned by Shanghai-headquartered Chi-Med, says it has expanded its partnership with Eli Lilly to include an additional target in oncology.

The extension follows a deal signed by the two firms in August 2007 which saw them agree to collaborate on the discovery and development of drugs focused on targets in cancer and inflammation. Hutchison will receive an undisclosed upfront payment, milestones and possible royalties on any products resulting from the collaboration.