AstraZeneca taps China's Pharmaron to speed R&D

AstraZeneca ($AZN) is dealing with a slim pipeline and a slashed R&D budget, and the pharma giant is looking to outsource. AZ inked a multiyear deal with Chinese CRO Pharmaron, employing the company for chemistry, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, and efficacy screening.

Neither company disclosed financial details, but the deal adds a few hundred scientists to AZ's team of 300 already in China, R&D chief Martin Mackay told Bloomberg, and the partnership will target treatments for cancer and cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal and infectious diseases.

The deal is AZ's biggest move in China to date, according to the news service, and the company joins a growing list of pharmas looking to Chinese CROs for lower development costs and an entrance into the world's fastest-growing drug market. Last month, AZ inked a deal with WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) to develop and commercialize MEDI5117, a biologic for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

For Pharmaron, headquartered in Beijing, the AZ deal follows a similar partnership with Merck Serono last year. "This partnership is an important milestone for Pharmaron as we are strengthening our capacity in the area of fully integrated services as a highly competitive and global player," Pharmaron CEO Boliang Lou said in a statement.

Outsourcing R&D is just one arm of AstraZeneca's plan to reverse its fortunes, Bloomberg reports. Earlier this year, the company forked over $3.2 billion to get cut in on Amylin's diabetes drug portfolio, and Mackay said AZ will seek more late-stage deals "that are nearer the market so that we can gain revenue."

- here's Pharmaron's release
- check out FierceBiotech's story
- get more from Bloomberg

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