Pharmaceuticals gain recognition for Taiwan: official

HELPING HAND: A drug to treat colorectal cancer and another for hepatitis B and C were developed by local companies with government assistance

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 12

Taiwan has made encouraging progress in biopharmaceutical development, as two new drugs developed by local companies with government assistance have received international recognition recently, an official said yesterday.

PharmaEssentia Corp (藥華醫藥), a Taipei-based pharmaceutical company founded by a group of Taiwanese-­American scientists in 2003, has received Investigational New Drug (IND) approval from US and Canadian authorities for its third-­generation interferon drug candidate P1101 (PEG-P-IFN-alpha-2b), the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) official said.

CLINICAL TRIALS

The drug, which treats hepatitis B and C and is particularly long-acting compared to the two other pegylated-interferon drugs currently on the market, will begin phase 1 clinical trials in both Canada and Taiwan later this year.

It already received IND approval from Taiwan’s Department of Health in June.

Meanwhile, the MOEA official said GlycoNex Inc (台灣醣聯生技) has successfully developed a potential therapeutic drug for colorectal cancer, known as fully human monoclonal antibody GNX-8.

AGREEMENT

GlycoNex has recently signed an agreement with Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka Pharmaceutical for technology transfer, the official said.

Once the potential colorectal cancer treatment drug is successfully marketed, GlycoNex could rake in about US$500 million (NT$16.2 billion) in royalties annually.

According to GlycoNex chairman Tong Chang (張東玄), the new drug is expected to fully attack cancerous cells without hurting healthy cells.

Attracted by the drug’s promising global market potential, Otsuka has decided to complete follow-up clinical trials.

SUPPORT

As development of biotechnology and new pharmaceuticals entails high risks and requires a heavy capital infusion and a long period of time, the official said, the MOEA has supported many development projects through the government-funded Development Center for Biotechnology.

For instance, he said, the MOEA put up NT$57 million between 2003 and 2006 to subsidize the development of GlycoNex’s cancer treatment drug and has contributed NT$53 million since 2006 to help PharmaEssentia develop its hepatitis B/C drug.

In addition, the official said, the DCB has set up world-class facilities — including a GPCR (G-Protein Coupled Receptors) Drug Discovery Facility and the Center of Toxicology and Preclinical Sciences — to help local pharmaceutical companies research and develop new drugs.