UPDATE 1-Roche in hepatitis C drug deal with Ascletis in China
* Ascletis to fund, develop, manufacture drug in China
* To receive milestone payments, royalties from Roche
* 10 mln patients infected with hepatitis C in China each year (Adds details)
ZURICH, April 15 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG said it had teamed up with emerging biotech firm Ascletis to develop and commercialise its investigational drug danoprevir in China for the treatment of the hepatitis C virus.
Under the agreement, Ascletis will fund, develop and manufacture danoprevir in greater China, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau and will also be responsible for regulatory affairs.
Ascletis will receive payments upon reaching certain development and commercial milestones from Roche.
Roche has long developed drugs to treat hepatitis C, an infection of the liver which affects some 180 million people worldwide.
Its drug Pegasys forms part of the current standard of care. But sales fell 15 percent in the first quarter and are expected to slow further as it faces competition from other oral treatments.
Alongside danoprevir, an investigational protease inhibitor that is active against hepatitis C genotypes 1 and 4, Roche is also developing several new molecules to fight the disease, including mericitabine and setrobuvir.
Ten million patients are infected annually with hepatitis C in China and there are no direct antiviral agents currently marketed to treat the disease, Ascletis said.
Roche bought the full rights to develop and commercialise danoprevir from InterMune in 2010 for $175 million. (Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Louise Heavens)
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