Vancouver: Vancouver biotech company Sirona Biochem has signed an exclusive US$9.5 million deal giving China’s top ranked anti-diabetic company, Wanbang Pharma (a subsidiary of Fosun) the rights to develop and commercialize a new diabetes treatment drug. Sirona Biochem has worked to produce an SGLT2 Inhibitor that is a best-in-class with optimal pharmaceutical characteristics including, but not limited to, enhanced stability, bioavailability, selectivity and/or efficacy. SGLT2 Inhibitors are a new class of drugs bringing hope to Type 2 diabetes patients. They work differently from other diabetes therapeutics which increase insulin production in the pancreas and affect metabolism. SGLT2 Inhibitors instead act in the kidneys to reduce the reabsorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This deal is poised to bring what could be the most effective version of this new diabetes treatment drug to China, the market that needs it most. China’s diabetes epidemic has reached a staggering 114 million people, meaning China has approximately one third of the world’s diabetes sufferers. Asian Journal spoke with Neil Belenkie, Chief Executive Officer, Sirona Biochem about this landmark deal.
“We are asked a lot how we are successful, and my answer to this is that when two companies partner they have to complement each other and cover the gaps for each other. We are confident that we will be successful with Wanbang since
both Sirona and Wanbang have shared vaues and goals.”
Asian Journal: Tell us more about Sirona Biochem’s role in developing treatment for Diabetes?
Neil: I would start by saying that I am neither a doctor nor a scientist so I cannot comment on the Diabetes as disease but I
speak for the drug we have produced which is still in clinical study stage. It is a 2nd generation class of SGLT2 drug that blocks the absorption of blood sugar whereas the traditional methods try to regulate the level of insulin in the body. The side benefits that we have observed till now is this compound can be helpful in preventing obesity. But the studies are still on and we would know more in coming time.
Asian Journal: Sriona is developing an SGLT2 Inhibitor for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes and obesity.When will it be available in Canadian market?
Neil: SGLT2 Inhibitor is a 2nd generation drug that is still at clinical study level. We have licensed it to Wanbang Pharma to perform clinical studies and market it in China only. The FDA approval could take 5 years so it’s after that approval that we will look for company here.
Right now we are focused only on Chinese market. Once it is in phase 2 of development then we will begin discussions to get license for other countries as well.
Asian Journal: Why you did not give clinical study license to a Canadian firm?
Neil: There aren’t any companies big enough in Canada that can do clinical validation at the required level. The clinical validaltion of SGLT2 will require approximately $100 million. Infact there are less than 10 companies in the world that would have been able to take over this role and financed it. Some of the companies that we did look at were already involved in other projects. They are involved in developing another class of drugs SGOT 2. So for us partnering with Wanbang Pharma made sense both in terms of financial investment and market for drug since China is biggest market for it as well. Diabetes is fastest growing disease affecting Chinese and we are hopeful SGLT2 Inhibitor will help control the disease.
Asian Journal: What are the gaps between the drug development and spreading of diabetes?
Neil: As far as I understand the Diabetes is a disease that has to be managed. I am not a doctor but being in biotechnology business I believe its matter of time and money that we are able to spend on drug development and study that Diabetes can be controlled. It is not a disease like Cancer which at times is untreatable and life threatening. Diabetes can be controlled. There are drugs in the market that represent different therapies for treating and controlling diabetes. The only gap I think is finding right treatment at right time and diligently following the path of therapy.
Asian Journal: What does this deal means for Vancouver Biochem Industry?
Neil: There haven’t been many companies that have been able to create partnerships with Chinese companies We are asked a lot how we are successful, and my answer to this is that when two companies partner they have to complement each other and cover the gaps for each other. We are confident that we will be successful with Wanbang since both Sirona and Wanbang have shared values and goals. There are very good markets out there and our companies in Canada and other western countries need to find a partner in markets like China. We could never sell the medicine alone; we could not do the clinical studies ourselves. And the Wanbang Pharma could not develop the drug till the stage we have done so we have joined hands to produce the medicine. Wanbang’s strong point is their market presence in China and their capability to do clinical study.
Visit www.asianjournal.ca to see video of Neil’s interview with RK Walker of Financial Buzz Market Weekly.