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US drugmaker forms China joint venture

By Chen Jia in San Francisco  (

08:52, May 21, 2013

The world's largest independent biotechnology firm headquartered in Thousand Oaks of southern California is tapping the market in China.

As the latest move, Amgen Inc plans to form a joint venture with Chinese pharmaceutical firm Zhejiang Beta Pharma Co to bring its colon cancer drug Vectibix to the Chinese market.

"This joint venture brings us one step closer to providing Chinese patients with Amgen's medicines and supports our strategy of expanding in key, fast-growing markets," said Anthony Hooper, executive vice-president at Amgen.

The joint venture will be named Amgen-Beta Pharmaceuticals Co, in which Amgen owns 49 percent of interest.

Vectibix is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. It is grouped within a class of medications called biologics, which are therapies derived from human cells. It is approved in more than 40 countries and was first approved in the United States in 2006.

Mary Klem, an official from the Latin America and Asia communications department of Amgen, said the soonest date that Amgen expects to have any products in China is 2015.

The company's interest in Chinese market based on the country's 12th Five Year Plan (2011-15), which identifies biotechnology as one of the country's seven new strategic emerging industries prioritized for growth over the next several years.

"Amgen is a pioneer and a global leader in the biotech industry and we believe that, with our experience and expertise, we can be a strong partner for China's efforts to achieve its growth goals in the field of biotechnology," she said.

"There are multiple synergies between the Chinese government and Amgen and we look forward to exploring these further."

As China's economy and healthcare continue to improve, infectious diseases decline and many Chinese people live longer. Consequently, there is an increase in the kinds of chronic conditions Amgen's medicines treat, such as: cancer, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, blood and bone diseases.

"Some of our innovative medicines are already available to the people of China through partner companies, but we are now ready to expand our commitment by building an Amgen business in China," she said.

As part of this, Amgen focuses on building the Amgen China team. In addition to its China headquarters in Shanghai, the company recently opened a regulatory office in Beijing.

It has also been conducting clinical trials in the region for several years through a small regional clinical trial team.

As was announced at Amgen's corporate Business Review meeting in New York City in February, Amgen plans to expand its operating footprint in key markets by 2015, including China. The company has a multi-pronged strategy for China that includes establishing an R&D presence and local manufacturing when needed, and is exploring partnerships and acquisitions to accelerate its commercial presence.

Beta Pharma Co is a leading pharmaceutical company and is highly recognized for its development of Icotinib, a fast-growing lung cancer therapeutic in the China market.

The joint venture will benefit from Beta Pharma's strong expertise in the development and commercialization of molecularly targeted therapy as well as Beta Pharma's industry leading oncology sales network in China.

Beta Pharma's China capabilities are complimentary to Amgen's global expertise in the development and manufacturing of human therapeutics, Klem said.

Amgen takes an opportunistic approach to partnership transactions and will always be open to considering partnerships that are a good strategic fit, she added.

According to an earlier report of the Wall Street Journal, Amgen is in a transitional period as many of the company's core products lose patent protection in the coming years and face the potential of new competition.

Expanding further into global markets and gaining approvals for new experimental drugs are top their work agenda nowadays.

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