PHARMACY

Novartis to break ground on R&D center in Beijing

BY Alaric DeArment

BEIJING Novartis will spend $1 billion to build the largest pharmaceutical research and development institute in China, the company announced.

The Swiss drug maker said the Novartis Institute of BioMedical Research in Shanghai would rank the third largest for the company worldwide. It will also spend $250 million on a technical research and development and manufacturing plant in Changshu, a suburb of Suzhou in Jiangsu province, close to Shanghai.

“We are confident that our expanded investment in R&D will result in innovative therapies for patients in China and other countries nurtured by the growing scientific excellence in China,” Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella said in a statement. “We are also pleased to contribute to the Shanghai government’s aim to establish the city as the premiere R&D center for China’s bio-medicine industry by 2012, as Novartis is committed to investing to further the Chinese government’s strategy for stimulating economic growth, stability and enhancing the livelihood of the Chinese people.”

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Merck, Schering-Plough to complete merger

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Drug makers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. will complete their merger Tuesday, Merck announced.

The two companies will begin combined operations Wednesday, with Schering-Plough adopting the Merck name and Schering-Plough stock becoming stock in the combined company.

The announcement of the merger follows recent clearance from regulatory authorities in China, Europe and Mexico, as well as the recent finalization of Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth.

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Bristol-Myers Squibb on Baraclude: Better efficacy than competitor

BY Alaric DeArment

BOSTON A Bristol-Myers Squibb drug used to treat hepatitis B kept viral load levels down more effectively than its competitor, according to study results announced by the company.

Bristol presented results in Boston Saturday at the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease’s annual meeting of a 48-week study comparing Baraclude (entecavir) with Gilead Sciences’ Hepsera (adefovir) in 191 patients with chronic hepatitis B infection with severe cirrhosis of the liver, also known as decompensated cirrhosis. Liver disease accounts for up to 25% of hepatitis B-related deaths.

Halfway through the study, 49% of 100 patients taking Baraclude had an undetectable viral load, compared with 16% of the 91 taking Hepsera. By the end of the study, 57% of Baraclude patients had an undetectable load, versus 20% of Hepsera patients.

“This study represents an important step in addressing an unmet medical need, as this is one of the first comparative studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of antiviral therapy in this difficult-to-treat patient population,” said Hugo Cheinquer, study investigator and associate professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil. “Chronic hepatitis B is a lifelong disease, and these data suggest that treatment with Baraclude may offer chronic hepatitis B patients with decompensated cirrhosis a treatment option.”

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