BeiGene and Novartis tag teaming to expand global reach

Chinese biopharma companies continue to attract attention from the West. (File photo: Agencies)

Novartis became the latest multinational drug company to team up with domestic counterparts to expand product lines in overseas markets, as local biopharma continues to attract attention from the West.

Novartis announced it will co-develop and commercialize Beijing-headquartered BeiGene's cancer drug tislelizumab in North America, the European Union, Japan and six other countries.

The NASDAQ- and Hong Kong-listed BeiGene will receive a down payment of US$650 million and potential royalties and milestone payments of up to US$1.55 billion, while keeping the rights to promote tislelizumab in China and other markets, according to a joint statement released today.

“We are excited about collaborating with BeiGene, a leading global biotechnology company with roots in China, to bring tislelizumab to patients around the world and pair it with our extensive portfolio and pipeline to develop transformative combination therapies,” said Susanne Schaffert, president of Novartis Oncology.

Novartis will be responsible for regulatory submissions after a transition period, as well as commercialization following regulatory approvals.

“This means our research results and innovative drugs will soon be available to the most developed nations," said Wu Xiaobin, president of BeiGene and general manager of BeiGene China.

“This important collaboration stands on a strong foundation of tislelizumab’s broad global development program, which has delivered two approvals in China, and we look forward to working with Novartis to fulfill the global opportunity of this anti-PD-1 antibody,” said John Oyler, cofounder, chief executive officer and chairman of BeiGene.

The two companies expect to apply for the first regulatory filing outside China in 2021. In addition, Novartis and BeiGene have identified multiple combination therapy clinical trial opportunities related to solid tumors.

Tislelizumab was approved and marketed in China for two applications, and three new uses for treating other diseases have been accepted by the China National Medical Products Administration's Center for Drug Evaluation and are under review.

"It's an important part of the Chinese firm's globalization efforts to fully leverage multinational drug companies' existing operation networks in overseas markets and enhance their overall performance," said UBS Securities' China pharma industry analyst Chen Chen.