With pipelines including botanical drugs and fat-reducing injections to monoclonal antibodies for HIV, here are 10 innovative biotech companies in Taiwan.
Taiwan is recognized as a global leader in the IT, semiconductor and electronic industries. Its strengths in these fields are easily transferable to the biotech industry, leading to a flourishing emerging sector. The Taiwanese government also sees the biotech industry as key to its national development, introducing precision medicine and medical technology as one of its six core strategies for long-term growth.
Over the years, the Taiwanese government has taken a proactive stance, passing supervisory and promotion policies for advancing and guiding the biotech industry. The government has also been investing in this industry since the 1980s, having founded the Development Center for Biotechnology — a non-profit organization that aims to advance Taiwan’s biotech and pharma industry — in 1984.
These efforts have paid off, with Taiwan’s biotech companies generating more than 700 billion New Taiwan dollars ($23.37 billion) in revenue in 2021, representing an increase of nearly 10 percent from 2020. For the past 16 years, Taiwan has also played host to the largest annual biotech event in Asia, BIO Asia-Taiwan. The 2022 installment saw more than 100,000 people visiting the exhibition over four days.
In no particular order, here are 10 biotech companies involved in the fields of applied biotechnology and pharmaceuticals in Taiwan.
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TailMed Biologics is a developer and manufacturer of monoclonal antibody (mAb) drugs that also provides CDMO services. This company was founded by David Ho, a prominent AIDS researcher who was the first to champion a cocktail of protease inhibitors and antiretroviral therapy as an AIDS treatment; Tsai Ing-Wen, current president of the Republic of China; and Lan Bo Chen, Professor Emeritus of Pathology at Harvard Medical School.
In 2007, Genentech licensed Trogarzo (ibalizumab), a mAb for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, to TailMed to complete development of the drug. In 2018 and 2019, ibalizumab was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency, respectively. TailMed is currently working on other routes of administration for ibalizumab, new technologies that can overcome ibalizumab resistance and a broadly neutralizing HIV-1 antibody.
PhytoHealth was the first drug development company to be listed on the Taiwan stock market. The company focuses on developing botanical drugs — medicines with herbal compounds based on traditional Chinese medicine. In 2010, Taiwan approved PhytoHealth’s botanical drug for cancer-related fatigue, which is an injection of freeze-dried carbohydrate molecules isolated from the flowering plant Astragalus membranaceus. The same drug has been granted Orphan Drug Designation by the U.S. FDA for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura: a blood disorder where the number of platelets in the blood is abnormally low. PhytoHealth has several other candidates in development, three of which have completed phase 3 clinical trials and have been granted U.S. FDA Fast Track designation.
Lumosa Therapeutics is a clinical-stage company developing solutions for neurological and oncological diseases. Naldebain, their first marketed product, is the world’s first analgesic injection for postoperative pain that provides a constant analgesic effect for up to seven days while bypassing opioid-related substance dependence.
Another product in the pipeline is a novel molecule — consisting of a synthetic peptide and an antioxidant — that restores occluded blood flow without causing hemorrhage for the treatment of acute ischemic strokes. This is an unmet medical need, as the only U.S. FDA approved treatment for ischemic stroke is limited to patients within 3–4.5 hours of stroke onset due to increased hemorrhage risk, making the actual usage of this drug in the clinic only 1–8 percent.
AltruBio develops first-in-class immunomodulators for the treatment and prevention of inflammatory and autoimmune disease. Their most advanced program neihulizumab is a first-in-class antibody with a unique mechanism of action: it selectively targets and depletes chronically activated T cells that are involved in immune-mediated disease, keeping other T cells intact to maintain host defense. Neihulizumab has shown clinical efficacy in phase 2a trials for psoriatic arthritis and ulcerative colitis, and is currently in phase 1 testing for acute graft-versus-host disease. Another T cell modulator is in preclinical development as an alternative to long term administration of immunosuppressive drugs after solid organ transplantation.
ScinoPharm is a global manufacturer of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), engaging in their research, development, manufacture and sale. Besides being a key API supplier for the global pharmaceutical industry, ScinoPharm also provides outsourcing services. The main products supplied include anti-cancer APIs, protein drugs, peptides, new small molecule drugs and injection preparations.
Headquarters: New Taipei City
Acepodia is focused on developing next-generation cellular immunotherapies for cancer using their proprietary antibody-cell conjugation (ACC) platform. ACC is a tumor-targeting technology that simply and cost effectively links antibodies directly to gamma-delta (γδ) T cells and natural killer (NK) cells to enhance their tumor killing ability without the need for genetic manipulation. Conventional cellular immunotherapies rely on genetic manipulation of T cells to introduce specific antigen receptors that can hone in on cancer cells.
The most advanced product in their pipeline is an off-the-shelf ACC-oNK cell therapy conjugated with HER2 antibodies for the treatment of HER2-expressing tumors, which is in phase 1 testing. The γδ T cell therapy candidate is targeted for CD20-expressing blood cancers and is entering phase 1 trials.
Headquarters: New Taipei City
Caliway Biopharmaceuticals develops novel small molecule drugs for both therapeutic and aesthetic purposes. Their lead candidate is an injection that destroys fat cells at the injection site. The drug has completed phase 2a testing for non-surgical fat reduction and its indications are expected to expand to Dercum’s disease and lipomas — both are disorders where fatty lumps of tissue grow beneath the skin. Other products in clinical development are targeting osteoarthritis, diabesity, and skin hyperpigmentation and aging.
The oldest company on our list of biotech companies in Taiwan, Adimmune is focused on the R&D, processing, manufacture and sale of human vaccines. It is the only influenza vaccine manufacturer in Asia with both EU good manufacturing practice and U.S. FDA certification. In addition to supplying more than 30 million doses of influenza vaccines domestically, Adimmune has expanded to international markets: its quadrivalent influenza vaccine — targeted against four different antigens — was commercialized in the U.S. with the help of Sanofi and has completed phase 3 trials in the EU.
Other products include vaccines for tetanus and Japanese encephalitis, with vaccines against Enterovirus 71 — responsible for severe neurological disease and as well as hand, foot and mouth disease in children — and COVID-19 in development. Adimmune is also developing a plasmid production platform for the mass production of DNA to meet the increase in demand for DNA and RNA therapies.
Steminent is a stem cell R&D company developing novel cellular therapeutics under their Stemchymal portfolio. The Stemchymal products are made from stem cells isolated from human donor-derived fat tissue. Steminent’s most advanced cell therapy is in phase 2 testing for the treatment of spinocerebellar ataxia — a rare neurodegenerative disease that causes progressive difficulty with coordination. Other therapies include a candidate for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis in phase 1, in addition to preclinical-stage programs for acute liver failure and drug-induced liver injury.
United BioPharma is focused on developing innovative mAbs for the treatment of infectious diseases, immune disorders and cancer. Their lead candidate is a mAb being studied for three different HIV indications in phase 2 and 3 trials. Other candidates undergoing clinical trials include mAbs for the treatment of recurrent genital herpes and chronic spontaneous urticaria, an autoimmune disease where hives spontaneously develop.
This company also has three mAbs in preclinical development for breast cancer, gastric cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Using their proprietary technology, United BioPharma is able to produce mAbs with enhanced antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity — the mechanism by which mAbs recognize and kill tumor cells.