* Ascletis to fund, develop, manufacture drug in China
* To receive milestone payments, royalties from Roche
* 10 mln patients infected with hepatitis C in China each
ZURICH, April 15 Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding
AG said it had teamed up with emerging biotech firm
Ascletis to develop and commercialise its investigational drug
danoprevir in China for the treatment of the hepatitis C virus.
Under the agreement, Ascletis will fund, develop and
manufacture danoprevir in greater China, including Taiwan, Hong
Kong and Macau and will also be responsible for regulatory
Ascletis will receive payments upon reaching certain
development and commercial milestones from Roche.
Roche has long developed drugs to treat hepatitis C, an
infection of the liver which affects some 180 million people
Its drug Pegasys forms part of the current standard of care.
But sales fell 15 percent in the first quarter and are expected
to slow further as it faces competition from other oral
Alongside danoprevir, an investigational protease inhibitor
that is active against hepatitis C genotypes 1 and 4, Roche is
also developing several new molecules to fight the disease,
including mericitabine and setrobuvir.
Ten million patients are infected annually with hepatitis C
in China and there are no direct antiviral agents currently
marketed to treat the disease, Ascletis said.
Roche bought the full rights to develop and commercialise
danoprevir from InterMune in 2010 for $175 million.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Louise Heavens)