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BeiGene-Novartis PD-1 deal; Sinovac vaccine; Celltrion antibody COVID-19 data

January 19, 2021 / Rukhsar Dhotekar
SHARESHARESHARE

Novartis plunked down up to $2.2 billion for BeiGene's China-approved PD-1 drug tislelizumab to complement its own checkpoint inhibitor. Hear what BeiGene CEO John Oyler has to say about tislelizumab's position in and outside China. Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine reported confusing data from Brazil, raising doubt about its true efficacy. Celltron's anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody improved patients' outcomes in a phase 2/3 trial. And more.

Novartis paid $650 million upfront and committed up to $1.55 billion in milestones to license certain rights to BeiGene’s PD-1 inhibitor tislelizumab in major markets outside China. The Swiss pharma is not abandoning its own checkpoint inhibitor spartalizumab despite a recent phase 3 trial failure; instead, it views the two PD-1s as “complementary.”

BeiGene retains the right to co-market tislelizumab in North America. The Novartis deal gives the Chinese biotech a chance to get help “learning how to commercialize and build some capabilities” beyond China, BeiGene CEO John Oyler said in an interview. He believes the drug could compete in Asian-prevalent cancer types and its value in large indications will show over time. The CEO also believes the PD-1/L1 class has reached a pricing sweet spot in China where additional major price cuts aren’t likely.

Brazilian researchers first said Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, was 78% effective in a local phase 3 trial. But then, a few days ago, they released new data of just 50.4% efficacy. The gap was caused by the omission of “very mild” infections in the previous data. The misstep led to criticism of the trial organization, Brazil’s Butantan biomedical center, as well as suspicion about CoronaVac’s true efficacy. Turkey just authorized the shot for emergency use based on a reported 91.25% efficacy in an interim analysis of its local trial.