Solvay’s pharmaceuticals division has signed an agreement with Huya Bioscience International, which gives the Belgian firm access to a “comprehensive Chinese molecule portfolio”, especially cardiovascular compounds.

Many of the molecules developed by Huya, which is jointly headquartered in San Diego and Shanghai, are already in advanced stages of development in China. Werner Cautreels, chief executive of Solvay Pharmaceuticals, said the firm is looking forward to working with Huya “and its highly qualified Chinese partners to identify innovative new molecules and develop them into break-through new therapies for patients and physicians around the globe”.

He added that through this partnership, “we will be able to speed up our R&D activities by gaining access to compounds that could be introduced in more advanced stages of early development”. Mr Cautreels’ counterpart at Huya, Mireille Gingras, said that the fact further validates the company’s model “for co-developing in Western markets novel therapeutic compounds sourced from China”. Moreover, “it leverages our demonstrated capabilities and experience in cardiovascular drug development,” she added.

The deal comes at a time when Solvay is weighing up its strategic options, including a possible divestment of its pharmaceuticals business. Last week, the group’s chief financial officer Bernard de Laguiche told analysts there had been no approaches from any potential buyers and Solvay has stated that is in no hurry to do a deal.

Valuations on the pharmaceuticals business, which had sales of 2.7 billion euros last year, vary from 5-6 billion euros. A wide range of firms have been mentioned as potential buyers, notably Sanofi-Aventis, Takeda, AstraZeneca and marketing partner Abbott Laboratories.