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UT Health’s Chinese pharma deal a global kick-starter for SA bioscience industry
June 23, 2017

By W. Scott Bailey, Reporter/Project Coordinator, San Antonio Business Journal

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have jointly entered into a pair of landmark licensing agreements with a newly created subsidiary of China-based CSPC Pharmaceutical Group Ltd. It's a deal that could ultimately net the two Texas institutions a combined $114 million in licensing payments and royalties.

The financial takeaway for the Alamo City is expected to be far more profound as leadership with the University of Texas Health Science Center, which is rebranding as UT Health San Antonio, expects the new deal with the $11 billion Chinese company will have a far greater impact on the city and its bioscience industry.

"It is my fervent hope that this is the tip of the iceberg," UT Health San Antonio President Dr. William Henrich told me on Friday.

At a minimum, the deal with CSPC should draw more national and international attention to UT Health San Antonio and to the city's other biomedical assets. "This is a big step in that direction for sure," Henrich said. "It's a magnificent advance for our city, for our region, for our university and the UT system."

As part of the deal, CSPC will gain the right to develop years of research conducted at UT Health San Antonio led by Jean Jiang, a tenured professor of biochemistry and structural biology at the institute's Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. It's because of the critical nature of Jiang's involvement that UT Health San Antonio stands to be a larger beneficiary of the lucrative deal with CSPC.

"They came here because of Dr. Jiang," Henrich said. "Signing a licensing agreement means the science is solid. The company wouldn't do this if it were not persuaded that this is an advance that can actually happen."

CSPC officials have high hopes for their new partnership in San Antonio. "We hope our relationship ... will be long-lasting and far-reaching," CSPC Pharmaceutical Group CEO Weidong Pan said through an interpreter.

Under the agreement, CSPC is creating a new company, AlaMab Therapeutics Inc., which will be based in San Antonio and work to develop the newly acquired global licensing rights into commercial therapeutics for use by patients with spinal cord injuries and breast cancer bone metastasis. CSPC and AlaMab will seek regulatory approval for the therapeutics in the U.S., China and other global markets.

UT Health San Antonio leadership said AlaMab has indicated its intent to further partner with the Alamo City institution to support the preclinical investigation and development of the therapeutics to include new indications. Henrich and others believe the establishment of AlaMab will give San Antonio's bioscience industry more critical mass and a direct link to other international opportunities.

"This validates everything we have been working on to build the sector. It highlights the important medical research that is going on here in San Antonio, including two of the city's core competencies - cancer and neurological disorders," BioMed SA President Ann Stevens said. "This is a very large transaction, and it should send a very large signal to the rest of the world."

Said Henrich, "Certainly this is putting us more on the map as a place where these kinds of discoveries occur and where commercialization projects like this can advance. My hope is that this will lend greater momentum to these kinds of discoveries and give us more positive notoriety in that space."

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