Novartis acquires 85 percent stake in Chinese vaccine maker

Swiss pharma’s deal with Zhejiang Tianyuan strengthens its existing product portfolio and expands innovation

Lloyd Dunlap
BASEL, Switzerland—Novartis has completed a transactionbegun in 2009 to acquire an 85 percent stake in Chinese vaccine companyZhejiang Tianyuan Bio-Pharmaceutical (TBP) Co. Ltd.
 
In 2009, Daniel Vasella, former Novartis CEO, was quoted assaying that TBP will serve as a platform for Novartis to introduce advancedtechnology in China and assist the company's development in the Chinese vaccinemarket, which is vast, rapidly growing and highly profitable.
 
TBP entered the Chinese vaccines industry in 1994 with thefirst vaccine in China against Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS)caused by hantaviruses. The company employs about 400 people at its R&Dmanufacturing site in Hangzhou, near Shanghai.
TBP is one of the largest private vaccine manufacturers inChina, with annual sales of $25 million in 2009. The company was responsiblefor supplying 20 million units of the H1N1 flu vaccine in 2009, according to ChinaBusiness News. According to figuresattributed to the newspaper in 2009, the deal was worth about $130 million.However, at that time, Ying Licheng, a senior TBP official, was quoted assaying that the final price would be much higher because of changing marketconditions and exchange rates.
 
For its part, despite the fact that its own release referredto the transaction as completed, a Novartis spokesperson says it is too earlyto comment further. The company's announcement said that, "this acquisitionprovides Novartis with an expanded presence in the Chinese vaccines market andis expected to facilitate the introduction of additional Novartis vaccines intoChina, where there continues to be tens of thousands of new cases ofvaccine-preventable diseases each year."
 
Andrin Oswald, head of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics,adds that "this agreement combines the strength of our vaccines R&Dstrategy and pipeline with Tianyuan's deep knowledge of the vaccines market inChina, enabling us to better deliver a broad range of vaccines to the Chinesepeople. Our collaboration with Tianyuan marks an important step in our strategyand long-standing commitment to improve healthcare in China by deliveringeffective vaccines that prevent diseases."
 
"Welook forward to working with Novartis to build a broader portfolio of novel andhigh-quality vaccines to help prevent disease in China and globally," saysDing Xiaohang, who will retain his position as founder, chairman and CEO ofTianyuan while holding a minority stake. "We have already identified severaljoint development programs that could be implemented in China over the next 10 years,with the potential of launching key products responding to unmet medical needsin the midterm."

Lloyd Dunlap

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