AstraZeneca and its global R&D arm MedImmune has unveiled a range of strategic initiatives to fuel the delivery of innovative biologics and targeted medicines to patients in China, the firm’s second largest market globally and a key growth platform. 

The drug giant has set up an exclusive strategic alliance with Chinese group WuXi AppTec to produce new biologics locally in the country. The agreement gives AZ the option to buy the firm’s biologics manufacturing capacity in Wuxi City in the next few years through an overall investment of around $100 million. 

The move should bring cutting-edge research and technical capability for biologics to China with the aim of addressing unmet patient needs in AZ’ main therapy areas of respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity; cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and oncology, the group noted. 

AZ is also streaming $50 million into building an additional development and launch facility alongside its existing manufacturing site in Wuxi City, to support the development and manufacture of innovative small molecules discovered in the country and at its global R&D sites.

Additional investments a new global hub for pharmaceutical development - alongside those in the UK and Sweden - with up to 50 scientists housed in Shanghai and Wuxi City, and the establishment of an integrated China medicines development organisation, bringing together early and late-stage medicines development across small molecules and biologics.

Takeda deal

Meanwhile, the drugs giant is also snapping up Takeda’s core respiratory business in a $575-million deal that includes the expansion of rights to roflumilast (marketed as Daliresp in the US and Daxas in other countries), the only approved oral PDE4 inhibitor for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as 200 staff.

AstraZeneca has marketed Daliresp in the US since the first quarter of 2015, taking full global rights under its wing will support the firm’s respiratory franchise and complement its portfolio of treatments for severe COPD, as well as access to other marketed respiratory medicines and early pipeline products.

"The agreement with Takeda complements our respiratory business, one of our three main therapy areas, supports our return to growth and will be immediately accretive to earnings from 2016,” said Luke Miels, Global Portfolio and Product Strategy lead at AZ, explaining the strategy behind the move.

The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2016.