VC-backed biotech Alios lands flu drug deal with Univ. of Hong Kong

Alios BioPharma has taken its attack on infectious bugs to China, where the South San Francisco-based biotech has struck a deal with the University of Hong Kong's tech transfer outfit Versitech, targeting new drugs against influenza. The deal boosts Alios's position, albeit with very nascent science, in one of the biggest areas of the infectious diseases game.

With flu scares still driving deal activity in the drug business, Alios has inked a licensing agreement for tech from the Chinese university and aims to find drugs that home in on weak points of the influenza virus. The U.S. biotech also plans to support research in the lab of university Prof. Richard Kao, whose research focuses on the chemical genetics of the flu bug. The groups didn't reveal financial details of the deal, yet Alios has secured a deal that builds on its existing work in serious infectious disease such as hepatitis C, for which the firm inked a landmark pact with Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX) announced in June.

"Influenza virus infection is responsible for a significant amount of morbidity and mortality and contributes to the rising cost of healthcare worldwide," Lawrence Blatt, Alios's chief executive, in a statement. "We are delighted to begin working with Versitech Ltd., the University of Hong Kong and Dr. Kao, as we believe that the compounds and technology derived from this collaboration will provide novel therapeutic options to improve the care of influenza virus-infected patients. Dr. Kao has identified novel chemical matter that targets a unique component of the influenza virus life cycle and we are diligently working with him to advance the lead molecules into clinical development."

- here's the release