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Amgen to Set Up JV in China

Zacks Equity Research

Amgen (AMGN) recently announced its intention to set up a joint venture (:JV) in China with Zhejiang Beta Pharma Co., Ltd.  The JV will focus on the commercialization of Amgen’s colorectal cancer drug, Vectibix, in China.

While Zhejiang Beta Pharma will hold a 51% stake in the JV, Amgen-Beta Pharmaceuticals Co., the balance will be held by Amgen. The setting up of the JV depends on the satisfaction of closing conditions including approval from the concerned government authorities in China.

The JV should benefit from Zhejiang Beta Pharma's development capabilities as well as its strong oncology sales network in China.

This agreement is in line with Amgen’s strategy of expanding its presence across the world. Earlier this year, Amgen had announced its intention to build a new manufacturing facility in the Tuas Biomedical Park area of Singapore. The company expects to manufacture both clinical as well as commercial products in this facility.

Meanwhile, earlier ithis month, Amgen reported encouraging data on Vectibix from the phase III head-to-head ASPECT study. The study compared Vectibix with Eli Lilly/Bristol-Myers Squibbs’ (LLY/BMY) Erbitux as a monotherapy treatment of chemorefractory metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) in patients with wild-type KRAS tumors. Results showed that Vectibix was non-inferior to Erbitux for overall survival.

Adverse events included rash, diarrhea and hypomagnesemia. Amgen will present detailed results from this study at an upcoming meeting later this year.

Vectibix’ label expansion would help boost product sales. Vectibix sales came in at $359 million in 2012, up 11.5%.

Amgen currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).  At present, Anika Therapeutics Inc. (ANIK), a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock, looks well-positioned.

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