TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Chinese biopharmaceutical company is in the process of acquiring the license for a Canadian mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, including the rights to the Taiwan market and other countries in the region, raising the possibility of future complications should Taiwan wish to obtain the jab.
China's Everest Medicines Ltd. is buying the COVID-19 vaccine, and the technology behind it, under development by Canada's Providence Therapeutics Holdings Inc. for US$100 million in cash, according to a press release. Half of the money will be paid for the firm's vaccines, including mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate PTX-COVID19-B, which is currently in Phase II trials.
The other US$50 million will be used to acquire collaboration products, additional products, and the mRNA technology platform. The deal also involves US$100 million in profit sharing on COVID-19 vaccines in China and Singapore and up to US$300 million in new Everest stock based on Providence's mRNA technology.
Similar to the way Fosun Pharma acquired the license rights to sell the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan, the deal hands Everest ownership of Providence's mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidates in "Greater China," which Beijing considers to include China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Everest will also own the rights to vaccine sales in Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand.
Early in the pandemic, in March of 2020, Fosun signed a deal with BioNTech that gave it exclusive rights to sell the vaccine in Greater China, including Taiwan. A Chinese executive then allegedly sabotaged an attempt by Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) to purchase the vaccine directly from BioNTech, and Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) has since then continued to reiterate Fosun's claim of exclusive rights to sell the shot in Taiwan.
Prior to the collapse of the deal, Taiwan was slated to receive the first shipment of BioNTech doses in March. However, it was not until Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Foxconn’s YongLin Foundation, and the Tzu Chi Foundation directly negotiated with BioNTech to purchase 15 million doses did Taiwan finally begin receiving BioNTech shipments.
In the case of the Providence purchase, Everest is taking a large gamble that the vaccine will be effective and be approved by China. Thus far, Fosun Pharma has seen little return on its investment, as Beijing has refused to approve the drug, appearing to give preferential treatment to its domestically developed vaccines.
Taiwan has reaped the rewards of the delayed approval by taking delivery of BioNTech doses "abandoned" by China.