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Pharma sector embraces digital health; US-China trade deal adds drug patent rule

Top news

* Artificial intelligence and big data collection are playing a larger role in the drug development process, shaping the way precision therapies are matched to a patient and driving changes in the clinical trial process along the way, according to experts. Many industry leaders agree that the pharmaceutical sector was slower to pick up on digital trends than others like banking, PricewaterhouseCoopers partners said at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

"The stakes are high — we've seen what happens when a drug doesn't get approved, and when you're trying to do it in a different way, the hurdles are more immense," PwC's U.S. Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Leader Karen Young said in an interview. "The purpose of the data is to help with innovation and to speed up the go-to-market process."

* China will establish a nationwide system that aims to drive early resolution of disputes over drug patents as part of a "phase one" trade deal between the country and the U.S. Under the system, patent holders will be notified when an applicant seeks market approval for a generic version of their branded product in China. The provisions also include judicial or administrative proceedings, along with "expeditious remedies" for the timely resolution of the patent disputes.

* Gujarat, India-based Alembic Pharmaceuticals Ltd. secured tentative approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market the first generic version of Jardiance, an oral medication used to help control blood sugar level in adults with type 2 diabetes, co-marketed by Eli Lilly and Co. and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH.

* GlaxoSmithKline PLC has made no decisions yet regarding the possible listing of its consumer joint venture with Pfizer Inc., Bloomberg News reported, citing the U.K. drugmaker's Chief Strategy Officer David Redfern. Redfern's statement is in contrast with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla's earlier remarks that the newly formed consumer business will go public in three to four years, the news outlet noted.

* Japan has confirmed its first case of the pneumonia-like illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, Reuters reported, citing the country's health authorities. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department issued a health alert advising Americans traveling to or are already in China to exercise precaution.

M&A and capital markets

* Tokyo's Astellas Pharma Inc. completed the acquisition of San Francisco-based Audentes Therapeutics Inc. in a deal with an equity value of about $3 billion. By the end of the tender offer period on Jan. 14, about 76.7% of Audentes' outstanding common stock was validly tendered. Astellas said the acquisition would strengthen the combined company's position in genetic medicines, which are based on Adeno-associated virus.

* Nyrada Inc., a U.S. spinoff of Australian drugmaker Noxopharm Ltd., said it is listing on the ASX after raising A$8.5 million in an IPO. Nyrada was established in 2017 to advance Noxopharm's non-oncology assets. Noxopharm will retain a 26.9% shareholding in Nyrada post-listing.

Drug and product pipeline

* Recordati Industria Chimica e Farmaceutica SpA said Isturisa, or osilodrostat, was approved by the European Commission to treat Cushing's syndrome, a rare disorder caused by an enlargement in the pituitary gland that results in overproduction of the body's main stress hormone called cortisol.

Operational activity

* S&P Global Ratings revised the outlook for London-listed NMC Health PLC to negative from stable, citing governance issues. The negative outlook, which came after a sharp decline in the healthcare services provider's stock price, also reflects the possibility of a downgrade if the current situation affects its operational and financial performance.

* Pfizer may implement cost-cutting measures "sooner rather than later" as the New York-based pharmaceutical giant looks at simplifying ways to support its core business, FiercePharma reported, citing a fireside chat with CEO Albert Bourla.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng gained 0.38% to 28,883.04, while the Nikkei 225 was up 0.07% to 23,933.13.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.43% to 7,609.75, and the Euronext 100 decreased 0.10% to 1,156.67.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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