Taiwan drugs company seals China partnership

PROFITABLE PERIOD::PharmaEngine’s stock has risen 117.44 percent since it began trading on the over-the-counter market at NT$86 per share in September

By Kevin Chen  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jan 04, 2013 - Page 14

PharmaEngine Inc (智擎生技), a Taipei-based biopharmaceutical company that is focused mainly on developing anti-cancer drugs, said yesterday it has reached a collaborative research pact with Guangzhou BeBetter Medicine Technology Co (廣州必貝特醫藥), news that saw its shares jump 4.47 percent.

PharmaEngine said in a filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange that it had teamed up with the Chinese company to design, synthesize and develop new anti-cancer drugs.

Under the agreement, PharmaEngine said it would hold the exclusive worldwide rights to manufacture, develop and market new drugs, with the exception of China, Hong Kong and Macau, where BeBetter would have these rights.

In addition, PharmaEngine said it expected royalty revenues would grow significantly after the development and marketing of new drugs.

“This collaboration opens a new chapter for partnership between Taiwan and China in searching for new anti-cancer drugs,” Peter Wu (吳兆升), an associate director of corporate development at PharmaEngine, said in the filing.

BeBetter was established in January last year by Qian Changgeng (錢長庚), who had played a key role in the collaboration between Curis Inc and Genentech Inc in successfully developing the drug Erivedge for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma before it received FDA approval in January last year.

PharmaEngine said BeBetter’s other drug development candidates are in various stages of development.

Grace Yeh (葉常菁), president and chief executive officer of PharmaEngine, said in a statement that the collaboration between the companies “can create a win-win combination of BeBetter’s drug discovery know-how and PharmaEngine’s drug development expertise.”

Shares of PharmaEngine rose 4.47 percent to close at NT$187 yesterday on the GRETAI Securities Market, outperforming the GRETAI index, which was up 0.86 percent at 105.03. The stock has risen 117.44 percent since it began trading on the over-the-counter market at NT$86 per share on Sept. 18.

In 2011, PharmaEngine reported a net profit of NT$285.71 million (US$9.85 million), or NT$4.01 per share, on revenue of NT$320.05 million. In the first nine months of last year, the company posted a net profit of NT$61.79 million, or NT$0.76 per share, with NT$174.03 million in revenue.

The company would likely generate royalty revenues of NT$25 million and NT$50 million this year and next year thanks to progress on several products, including the milestone payments and royalties on sales of pancreatic cancer drug, PEP02, from US-based Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc, Fubon Securities Investment Services Co (富邦投顧) analyst Heather Chang (張雅雯) said in a recent report.

PharmaEngine struck a licensing deal with Merrimack in May 2011 for the development and commercialization of PEP02 worldwide, with the exception of Taiwan. The drug is presently undergoing clinical trials.

Once the US Food and Drug Administration approves the sale of the drug in the US, it is expected to significantly boost PharmaEngine’s revenue and earnings, Chang said in the report.