Chinese CRO Newsummit Biopharma has received a license to an antibody from MRC Technology, a medical research charity, for development of a hepatitis C med.
The antibody was developed in the lab of Prof. Arvind Patel at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and later humanized by MRC Technology scientists using the organization’s proprietary antibody humanization technique, which has already been successfully utilized in Merck’s Keytruda, Biogen’s Tysabri and Roche’s Actemra. The U.K.-based charity monetized $150 million last year with its royalty interest in Keytruda.
The World Health Organization estimates that around 130-150 million people around the world have chronic hepatitis C, and that as many as 80% of acute infections could develop into chronic ones.
There are approved hepatitis C meds currently available, and China is potentially a large target market, since viral hepatitis diseases are huge problems in the country. The chronic hepatitis C population in China is estimated at about 15 million, and the number of those carrying the virus is far larger.
Gilead, for example, at the 26th annual conference of the Asian Pacific Association for the Study of Liver in February, published (abstract OP242) positive results of a phase 3 trial of Sovaldi carried out in China. The biopharma giant hopes the result could help it gain an approval for the med in China.
But unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there’s currently no available vaccine for hepatitis C. Drug development in that field has not shown much progress. Inovio, for one, is currently working with South Korean company GeneOne in phase 1/2 on a DNA therapeutic vaccine candidate for genotypes 1a and 1b hepatitis C. In 2014, GlaxoSmithKline posted positive preliminary data for its candidate based on a phase 1 trial conducted at Oxford University.
Having been working with MRCT since 2009 to introduce new therapies from Europe to the Chinese market, Newsummit Biopharma, with this new licensing agreement, “aim[s] to quickly tackle one of China’s major public health issues, as well as provide patients from Asia and the West with a valuable therapeutic option against HCV,” said Jun Ren, the CRO’s CEO, in a statement.
The Shanghai-based CRO, which offers a full range of new drug R&D services, filed for an $80 million IPO in 2012.