Under the deal, Sanofi will pay $21m (€19m) for rights to JHL1101, a version of Roche's Rituxan (rituximab), and an option for other candidates in Hsinchu, Taiwan-headquartered JHL’s pipeline. The French drug firm will also invest $80m in JHL.
The accord was prompted by JHL’s desire to find a commercialisation partner with sufficient reach according to spokesman Greg Manker.
He told us: “We always have been focused on our strengths in analytical development, process development, and manufacturing. This also means that, since the day we were founded, we knew we would need a marketing partner for all territories in which we plan to sell our products.
“We chose Sanofi because it is a globally-recognized biopharmaceutical firm that has significant experience operating in China.”
Sanofi has operated in China since 1982 and has a local staff of more than 9,000 employees. The firm has several oncology products on the National Reimburstment Drug List in China.
Manker added that: "We plan to file a Chinese CTA [for JHL1101] soon but keep exact dates close to our chest for competitive reasons."
While China is the main focus on the collaboration, Sanofi and JHL will also explore other markets.
Manker told us Sanofi's global reach was another motivation, adding that "we structured a partnership that provides options for global marketing rights."
"I cannot provide more specifics about the territory expansion option beyond this, aside from saying that both JHL and Sanofi hope to see biosimilars made available to as many patients as possible."
JHL will make the rituximab biosimilar at its recently constructed manufacturing facility in Wuhan.
The plant was made by GE Healthcare and partner M+W Group, who fabricated the entire two storey building at a production site in Germany. The completed facility was shipped to China as modular units last year.
The facility houses single-use bioreactors and chromatography equipment that was shipped to Wuhan separately.