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12:00 AM
 | 
Jan 23, 2012
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Met-ing the neighbors

AstraZeneca cancer deal validates Hutchison's in-house discovery in China

AstraZeneca plc's grassroots approach to business development in Asia has allowed it to bring in a program from Hutchison MediPharma Ltd. that was under the radar of analysts covering the Chinese company. The deal to develop an inhibitor of c-Met receptor tyrosine kinase also provides the first validation of the 10 years and almost $100 million the Chinese biotech has spent building its in-house discovery operations.

Hutchison MediPharma was established in 2002 to screen Chinese traditional medicines in search of pharmaceuticals. The company is a subsidiary of U.K.-listed Hutchison China MediTech Ltd. (Chi-Med), which itself is a unit of Hong Kong-listed multinational conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.

"People probably don't realize that Hutchison MediPharma has been in place in Shanghai now for 10 years because of our structure as a subsidiary of a subsidiary, both of which are listed companies," CEO Christopher Hogg told BioCentury. "Hutchison Whampoa is better known as one of the largest telecommunications and port services companies in the world, so the fact that our work as their foray into pharmaceuticals is non-core and not even adjacent is one reason we've been relatively quiet."

Despite the low profile, Hogg said Hutchison MediPharma is one of the few biotechs with an established presence in China.

He attributed the paucity of Chinese innovator biotechs to "there being so much other low-hanging fruit here, like Internet- and consumer-related areas - or even CROs - where the investment horizons are shorter, so venture...

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