Pfizer’s investment in China’s CStone Pharmaceuticals sets stage for first second-generation PD-L1 inhibitor, says GlobalData

Pfizer’s recent investment of $200m in China’s CStone Pharmaceuticals for the development of a second-generation immuno-oncology agent is the latest partnership between US and Chinese companies being utilized as a strategy to develop best-in-class agents to rival the first-in class advantages of currently marketed agents. As a result, there is a clear trend of partnerships between large pharmaceutical companies in the US and companies in China, which GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, anticipates will encourage similar deals in the future and will drive the launch of second generation immuno-oncology (IO) products worldwide.

Miguel Ferreira, MSc, Oncology and Hematology Analyst at GlobalData, says: “GlobalData expects Pfizer’s investment into CStone to potentiate CS1001’s development as a second-generation PD-L1 inhibitor and promote its claim to become the best-in-class product in the market. This is primarily expected to occur in the gastric and gastroesophageal cancer market in China, where CS1001 is involved in a Phase III clinical trial. Later, CS1001 is expected to enter other indications and gain a similar standing.”

CS1001 can be considered a second-generation PD-L1 inhibitor since CStone Pharmaceuticals specifically aimed to improve upon existing agents. Although, currently, CS1001 is only in late-stage development in Mainland China, this new partnership is likely to support clinical trials in the US and 5EU*, which would be pivotal for both parties.

Ferreira adds: “Pfizer and CStone Pharmaceuticals are looking to mirror the successful strategy of Celgene’s investment in Beigene’s tislelizumab in July 2017, which undoubtedly promoted the development of this second-generation PD-1 inhibitor. Had it not been for the BMS-Celgene merger, which led to the full marketing rights being returned to Beigene, Celgene would have added a potential blockbuster agent to their portfolio.

“Pfizer’s experience with Bavencio will be key in tackling the IO market outside of Mainland China. Furthermore, this supports its claim that CS1001 can become a best-in-class PD-L1 inhibitor. Regardless, a long-term strategy by Pfizer will have to take into account their ongoing partnership with Merck for Bavencio.”

* 5EU: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK

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