Lilly expands China drug partnership in growing cancer market

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. is broadening an existing partnership with a biotechnology company in China, seeking to tap rising demand for cancer drugs.

Under an expanded deal with Innovent Biologics Inc., the companies will collaborate to develop up to three cancer treatments both inside and outside China, according to a written statement released Sunday. Suzhou, China-based Innovent could receive payments totaling more than $1 billion if the products reach certain milestones, according to the statement.

Cancer rates in China are soaring, partly because of the country’s aging population. The nation registers about 3 million new cases each year, according to the World Health Organization. Innovent’s pipeline focuses on oncology, along with inflammatory diseases and ophthalmology.

The two companies will collaborate on developing and commercializing the drugs over the next decade. Further financial details were not disclosed. Under an initial pact announced in a March statement, Innovent was to receive a total upfront payment of $56 million.

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