AstraZeneca plans to build a major R&D center in Hong Kong that will be devoted to developing cell and gene therapy drugs for global use.

Richard Daverman

December 4, 2023

2 Min Read
AstraZeneca to build CGT center in Hong Kong
DepositPhotos/CamillaCasablanca

AstraZeneca, a UK-Sweden big pharma, plans to build a major R&D center in Hong Kong that will be devoted to developing cell and gene therapy drugs for global use.

The facility, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, will grow to 100 employees over five years. It will be located Hong Kong’s Lok Ma Chau Loop technology hub near the mainland China border. AstraZeneca’s R&D facility will be the first Hong Kong center for a top ten big pharma.

Last month, AstraZeneca held a plaque unveiling ceremony to honor its commitment to build the center and an incubator platform, Hong Kong iCampus, at the government headquarters in Admiralty on the east side of the island.

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DepositPhotos/CamillaCasablanca

Leon Wang Lei, AstraZeneca’s China president and executive vice-president of AZ’s international operations, said, “Areas of the treatments could cover autoimmune diseases, oncology, rare diseases. A lot of clinical trials will also gradually be done in Hong Kong.”

Because the manufacture of products for cell and gene therapies does not take up a lot of space, setting up production lines in the city could also be considered, Wang added.

Earlier this year, AstraZeneca was one of more than 30 foreign and mainland Chinese companies that pledged to invest about US$4 billion in Hong Kong, in an effort coordinated by the government’s Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises.

AstraZeneca uses M&A to expand its portfolio. The company’s China deals announced this year include the following:

  • Shanghai Usynova Biopharma out-licensed global rights for its clinical stage small molecule KRASG12D inhibitor to AstraZeneca in a deal worth up to $419 million.

  • Eccogene, a Shanghai-Boston biotech, out-licensed global rights (ex-China) for its novel small molecule GLP-1 agonist to AstraZeneca in a $2 billion blockbuster deal. Eccogene will receive $185 million upfront.

  • Tianjin CanSino Biologics, a vaccine company, extended its research alliance with AstraZeneca, agreeing to provide contract development and manufacturing services for AstraZeneca’s messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine program.

  • Shanghai’s LaNova Medicines has sold global rights for a pre-clinical antibody drug conjugate candidate to AstraZeneca for $600 million (including $55 million upfront) plus royalties on sales. LaNova said LM-305 targets G protein-coupled receptor, class C, group 5, member D (GPRC5D).

A version of this article was first published in ChinaBio Today on November 27, 2023 

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