Showing that it can organize itself to meet a potential health emergency, China expeditiously tested, approved, produced and began stockpiling H1N1 flu vaccine last week. The swine flu strain, which began appearing late in last winterâ€™s flu season, seemed to carry a greater incidence of death than most variants of the disease. Accordingly, the health establishment moved quickly to combat an as-yet-to-appear major outbreak. No one wants to appear lax against a threat that afforded authorities a chance to prepare.
Sinovac Biotech (SVA) was one of the main beneficiaries of the threat. On Monday, the company reported a panel of experts recommended approval of the product. The SFDA followed on Thursday by granting a production license and approval for Panflu.1. As expected, the agency SFDA approved the single-injection administration of the vaccine as sufficient to provide immunogenicity.
On Friday, China announced an order for 7.3 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine from two domestic manufacturers: 3.3 million doses from Sinovac and another 4 million from Hualan Biological Engineering (whose approval closely followed Sinovacâ€™s). Also, China granted emergency approval for Relenza (zanamivir), a GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) drug that is both a prophylaxis and treatment for influenza A and B. Simcere (NYSE:SCR) owns the exclusive right to market Relenza in China.
All of this news caused Sinovacâ€™s shares to soar. After closing out the previous week at $6.30 per share, Sinovac ended last weekâ€™s trading at $9.14, an increase of $2.80 or 45%. On Monday, it briefly hit a high of $12.50, a record price for the stock.
There was other news in China life science last week, apart from the fight to combat flu, including developments in the CRO sector. Twenty CROs in Guangzhou formed a regional consortium, the Guangzhou Biotech Outsourcing Alliance (GZBO), to promote cooperation among the members. GZBO hopes to build an integrated full-service infrastructure in Guangzhou and coordinate efforts for international business development. GZBO also signed a cooperation agreement with Beijing CROs.
China Aoxing Pharmaceutical Company (CAXG.OB), which specializes in the strictly regulated sector of narcotic and pain medications, submitted its application for SFDA approval of Codeine Phosphate, an oral solution for the treatment of moderate to severe cough. China Aoxing expects to launch this product in China in 2010, assuming the regulatory review goes well.
Sinopharm Holdings, a joint venture between China National Pharmaceutical Group (SHA: 600511) and Fosun International (HK: 0656), is making progress on its planned $1 billion IPO in Hong Kong. The company announced it has found nine â€ścornerstoneâ€ť investors who will together buy 20% of the offering. In exchange for a guaranteed number of shares, the investors pledged to hold their shares for an unspecified period.