Expanding its Asia focus, GlaxoSmithKline has signed up Hong Kong-based Eddingpharm to sell its breast cancer drug Tykerb in China, having just entered into an alliance with Singapore's A*Star to develop new medicines for emerging markets.

First up, Eddingpharm is to acquire exclusive rights in mainland China to import, market and promote Tykerb (lapatinib), which has recently been given the green light by the country's state Food and Drug Administration. Specifically the drug is approved for use in combination with Roche's Xeloda (capecitabine) for the treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer whose tumours overexpress HER2 and who have received prior therapy with an anthracycline, a taxane and another Roche drug, Herceptin (trastuzumab).

Xin Ni, chief executive at Eddingpharm, said the deal, the financials for which have not been disclosed, is an important milestone, not least because "this is the first time a Chinese pharmaceutical company will participate in the launch of a proprietary global oncology drug". He added that the partnership with GSK "helps us fully leverage our rich market experience and mature marketing platforms to open a fast track for Tykerb's China launch".

Tykerb has been approved in the aforementioned indication in more than 100 countries and Eddingpharm noted that in China there are 170,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year.

The deal came a day after GSK linked up with the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES), owned by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) in Singapore.

A five-year strategic agreement has been signed to develop new evidence-based formulations (EBFs) specifically for emerging markets. The latter are medicines which are reformulated to provide additional patient benefit.

Keith Carpenter, executive director at ICES, which has been working with GSK since 2003, said that this latest deal "provides an opportunity for us to further our research and deepen our capabilities in formulation science with skilled scientists and technical expertise". He added that the venture "will enable us to develop future scientists and laboratory analysts with the right skills to grow this industry in Singapore”.

Duncan McKay, head of emerging markets and Asia Pacific R&D at GSK, said that within the firm's portfolio of off-patent products, "EBFs are an important part of our growth strategy". He went on to say that "our hope is that together with ICES, we will create a sustainable, scalable model to meet both specific market conditions and patient requirements”.

Tapping into Singapore scientific talent

Commenting on the agreement,  Kevin Lai, director of biomedical sciences at the Singapore Economic Development Board, said the deal is a strong endorsement of the country's "scientific talent and capabilities". He added that it also "further reinforces Singapore’s offering as the base for companies to generate insights and develop new solutions and market access strategies for the fast-growing emerging markets".

GSK is a major player in Singapore, which is home to the drug giant's headquarters for the emerging markets and Asia Pacific. It also has an R&D facility in Biopolis, two global manufacturing and supply sites (Jurong and Quality Road), a manufacturing facility for its Stiefel unit and a state-of-the-art vaccines plant in Tuas.

A*Star oversees 14 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, plus six consortia and centres and says it supports Singapore's "key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry".