As biopharma deal values continue to rise above recent years, a growing percentage of the funds are coming through partnerships with companies headquartered in Asia and nearby countries.

The $48.5 billion reported so far in 2020, for deals in which at least one party is based in either Asia, Australia or New Zealand, represents 37% of the global deal value. The rest of the world is losing its percentage share as a result. Companies outside of the Asian region reported deals with 86% of the global value in 2017, but that has since declined to only about 63% in 2020.

Meanwhile, the 37% of deal values represented by the Asian region has climbed significantly, from only 14% in 2017 to 25% in 2018 and, most recently, 34% in 2019. Full-year deal values for the region were $11.2 billion, $29.7 billion and $55.2 billion for each of those years, respectively.

Most of the Asian deal money was reported by Japanese companies, which account for more than 17% of the global total in 2020. It is the highest percentage in the last four years for Japan.

Chinese companies showed a higher percentage in 2019 with about 10% of the total value vs. 7.3% so far this year, although the volume of deals completed by Chinese companies is at their height.

The rest of Asia also has had a strong showing this year, with 12.6% of the deal value and 13.8% of the deal volume, representing the highest levels in four years.

Top Asian deals

A total of 13 Asian biopharma deals, all worth greater than $1 billion each, have a combined projected value of $28.5 billion. They include several that are focused on cancer therapies, including a $2.55 billion partnership signed in January between Kenilworth, N.J.-based Merck & Co. Inc. and Tokyo-based Taiho Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. to develop and commercialize small-molecule inhibitors against multiple drug targets, including the KRAS oncogene. The cancer deal included a $50 million up-front payment and $2.5 billion in milestones. Taiho retained co-commercialization rights in Japan and the option to promote in specific areas of Southeast Asia.

In March, just as the world began shutting down in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, South San Francisco-based Cytomx Therapeutics Inc. and Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma Inc. signed a $2.58 billion deal to employ Probody technology for T-cell engaging bispecific antibodies that target CD3 and tumor cell surface antigens in cancer. The deal included $80 million up front and $1.6 billion in potential milestone payments, but also could include another $900 million if Cytomx exercises an option to expand the collaboration by up to two additional targets.

The largest Asian biopharma deal in 2020 is Cambridge, U.K.-based Astrazeneca plc’s $6 billion July agreement to develop and commercialize worldwide Tokyo-based Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd.’s DS-1062, a trophoblast antigen2 antibody-drug conjugate, for non-small-cell lung and breast cancers. Terms included $350 million up front, another $325 million at one year and $325 two years into the deal, as well as $1 billion in regulatory milestones and $4 billion in sales milestones. Daiichi retained exclusive rights in Japan.

In a deal valued at $2.1 billion, representing China’s largest in 2020, Suzhou, China-based Innovent Biologics Inc. and Basel, Switzerland-based Roche Holding AG agreed in June to develop multiple cell therapies and bispecific antibodies for hematological and solid cancers. Innovent is paying to access technologies from Roche, which holds an option to license resulting candidates for development and commercialization outside of China. Roche would pay $140 million to exercise the option, and another $1.96 billion in potential milestone payments, as well as royalties.

Three other large partnerships outside of oncology were signed in June. Melbourne, Australia-based CSL Ltd. and Amsterdam-based Uniqure BV partnered on the gene therapy candidate AMT-061 (etranacogene dezaparvovec) for hemophilia B in a global deal worth $2.05 billion. San Diego-based Neurocrine Biosciences Inc. signed on with Tokyo-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. for psychiatric disorder therapies in a worldwide deal worth $2.015 billion. And Daejeon, South Korea-based Alteogen Inc. also signed a $3.88 billion deal with an undisclosed company to develop and commercialize subcutaneous injection biologic products using its human hyaluronidase (ALT-B4) platform technology.

Deal volume flat

Although the value of Asian biopharma deals is increasing, the number of deals completed appears to be relatively flat, at least within the last three years. The 482 so far in 2020 are about 35% of the total, whereas the 553 in 2019 and the 458 in 2018 are each about 34%. The 286 in 2017, however, is only about 28% of the total deals completed that year.

Of the global biopharma deals so far this year, 180 have involved Chinese companies, including those from Hong Kong. Another 115 were completed by Japanese companies, and 187 were signed by companies headquartered in other areas of the Asian region.

The biggest Asian deal focused on the COVID-19 pandemic is Songdo, South Korea-based Samsung Biologics’ $362 million agreement in April to provide manufacturing for San Francisco-based Vir Biotechnology Inc.’s VIR-7831 and VIR-7832. Next largest is a $135 million deal in March between Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and Mainz, Germany-based Biontech SE to develop and commercialize the mRNA vaccine BNT-162 for COVID-19 in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

In total, the 1,358 deals completed in 2020 through early September have reached a $129.65 billion projected value, beneath 2019’s full-year total of 1,608 deals worth $160.2 billion, but in line with 2018’s 1,364 deals worth $119.5 billion, and well above 2017’s 1,015 deals worth about $81 billion.

Biopharma deals tracked for this analysis include licensings, collaborations and joint ventures involving for-profit companies that were sourced directly from BioWorld and Cortellis.

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