WuXi and Lilly pair up to develop a cardio drug in China

Lilly China President Andrew Hodge

Eli Lilly ($LLY) is partnering with CRO WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) to develop a cholesterol-lowering pill in China, relying on local expertise in hopes of tapping a growing market.

Under the deal, Lilly is handing over a proprietary small-molecule treatment designed to improve outcomes for patients with high cholesterol and triglycerides, the company said. WuXi is responsible for all development, manufacturing and regulatory work in China, while Lilly is on hand for eventual commercialization. Both companies are investing in the medicine's development, but neither party disclosed financial terms.

WuXi is now planning to file an investigational new drug application for the early-stage therapy, the CRO said, seeking Chinese FDA approval to begin clinical development.

For Lilly, reaching out to WuXi amounts to an expression of humility, deferring to a local expert with experience in China's changing clinical and regulatory environment.

"This unique collaboration is part of our 'In China, For China' strategy to leverage Lilly's leading technology and experience, and local partners' insight and expertise, to meet patient needs," Lilly China President Andrew Hodge said in a statement.

Meanwhile, WuXi is preparing for the possibility of becoming a private company in the coming months. In April a group led by founder and CEO Ge Li made an offer to take the company off the market in a $3.3 billion deal. A special committee formed by WuXi's board has voted in favor of the transaction, and the idea will come before a shareholder vote on Nov. 25. Over the past week, two proxy firms have come out in support of the deal.

- read the statement

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