French Insulin Maker Spurned by Eli Lilly Forges Deal with China’s Tonghua Dongbao

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Shares of Adocia are up nearly 30 percent this morning after the French company announced it granted exclusive development and commercialization rights of its insulin products to Tonghua Dongbao Pharmaceuticals in order to provide treatment to the 100 million people in China living with a form of diabetes.

China-based Tonghua Dongbao forked over $50 million in upfront monies for development and commercialization rights in China to Adocia’s fixed-ratio insulin glargine and insulin lispro combination, BioChaperone Combo (a mixture of Sanofi’s Lantus and Eli Lilly’s Basaglar) and ultra-rapid insulin, BioChaperone Lispro, a mix of Lilly’s Humalog and Sanofi’s Admelog, for the treatment of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Adocia’s two products are designed to improve glycemic control in diabetes patients who require premix or prandial insulins.

Under terms of the deal Tonghua Dongbao paid Adocia $40 million for BioChaperone Combo and $10 million for BioChaperone Lispro. Additionally, Adocia will be eligible to receive development milestone payments up to $85 million, including $50 million for BioChaperone Combo and $35 million for BioChaperone Lispro.

Yikui Li, president of Tonghua Dongbao, said BioChaperone Lispro offers the company an opportunity for “a best in class ultra-rapid prandial insulin.” It is estimated that approximately 100 million people in China are living with some form of diabetes. Over the past 30 years the rate of diabetes patients has grown from 1 percent in 1980 to nearly 11 percent of the population in 2017. The market share for diabetes treatments in China is likely to grow as one in three people in China are considered pre-diabetic.

In January Adocia revealed positive Phase Ib results from a BioChaperone Combo clinical trial that showed the treatment strongly performed against other premix insulins, including Novo Nordisk’s Rysodeg. Premix insulins are popular in China. Use of the premix formulas represent approximately 65 percent of insulin volume, Adocia said in January. At the time the Phase Ib results were announced Gérard Soula, chief executive officer and chairman of Adocia, said the company was in the midst of exploring potential licensing deals for the BioChaperone platform. Although it wasn’t disclosed, it is likely the positive results from January served as a catalyst for the deal with Tonghua Dongbao.

The Chinese company has been rapidly expanding its capabilities to address the diabetes market in China. Tonghua Dongbao has added large state-of-the-art manufacturing capacity for insulins analogs, such as insulins glargine, lispro and aspart.

“This partnership results from our strategic decision to find a local partner in China while keeping the rights on the two projects for the rest of the world,” Soula said in a statement issued this morning.

While Adocia sold the rights to its platform in China, the company will retain those rights elsewhere. Which, if the products are approved, should not have too much trouble finding a market share toehold. Much like China, the exponential growth of diabetes is a global concern. By 2045, the number of people living with diabetes is expected to rise to 629 million worldwide, with type 2 diabetes being the most common form, accounting for around 90 percent of all cases

The deal with Tonghua Dongbao comes a little more than 15 months after Eli Lilly walked away from a development deal for BioChaperone Lispro. Indianapolis-based Lilly issued a letter to Adocia in January 2017 announcing its intention to terminate the agreement that was initially established in 2014.

While Lilly walked away from Adocia, this week the U.S. pharma giant announced a large collaboration with China's National Center for Cardiovascular Diseases to advance the scientific understanding and treatment of type 2 diabetes and related complications, such as cardiovascular disease.

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