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Week in Review: BeiGene Sets Record with $1.4 Billion Celgene Deal
Deals and Financings
BeiGene (NSDQ: BGNE) of Beijing has entered a "transformational" collaboration with Celgene (NSDQ: CELG). The agreement, which involves BeiGene's clinical-stage PD-1 immuno-oncology drug, has a total value of almost $1.4 billion, setting a record as the largest out-licensing of a China discovered novel drug candidate (see story). Celgene will own global rights to BeiGene's BGB-A317 immuno-oncology drug, except for Asia, though it will own Japan rights. In return, Celgene will pay $263 million upfront and make a $150 million equity investment in BeiGene. The agreement provides for up to $980 million in development, regulatory and sales milestones. And BeiGene will acquire China rights (including manufacturing) to Celgene's three China-approved cancer drugs, plus a fourth candidate. In addition, BeiGene will take over Celgene's existing China sales organization, which BeiGene will use to market its own portfolio of cancer drugs, once they are approved.
A group of 24 entrepreneurs, all of them graduates of Wuhan University, announced plans to form a $147 million China healthcare fund (see story). The fund, which will be known as WHU Healthcare Alliance, expects to finance healthcare projects started by Wuhan graduates. Lawrence Tian, founding partner of Yuanming Capital, is the president of the Alliance; Zhi Yang, founding partner of BVCF, is its executive president; and Jonathan Wang, senior managing director of OrbiMed Asia, will be a director.
Sino Biological, a Beijing reagents developer, raised $29 million in a Series A round led by Qiming Venture Partners, a China VC with interest in life sciences (see story). Founded in 2007 by MIT professor, Dr. Daniel I.C. Wang, and his former student, Dr. Liangzhi Xie, Sino Biological offers a large selection of reagents for life science research and drug development. It also provides CRO services for protein and antibody discovery, research, development, production and commercialization.
QIAGEN (Suzhou) Translational Medicine, a China precision medicine company, raised $25 million in a Series A funding led by Qiming Venture Partners (see story). QIAGEN (Suzhou) was founded in 2013 by QIAGEN (NSDQ: QGEN), a global molecular diagnostics company headquartered in Germany, and BioBay, the Suzhou life science technology park. It specializes in developing biomarkers and stratifying patients in clinical trials. QIAGEN (Suzhou) said it plans to use the new capital to build a factory and expand its scientific team.
Trials and Approvals
BeyondSpring (NSDQ: BYSI), a New York City immuno-oncology company, received CFDA approval for two China Phase II/III trials of its lead molecule, plinabulin, as a treatment for neutropenia (see story). One will be conducted in cancer patients being treated with docetaxel and another as an adjunct to a TAC regimen. An IV drug, plinabulin can be administered one hour after chemotherapy unlike the current standard of care, G-CSF, which requires a next-day visit to the hospital for infusion and, as a biologic drug, is more expensive.
BeiGene (NSDQ: BGNE), a Beijing oncology company, has started the second pivotal China Phase II trial of its PD-1 immuno-oncology drug, BGB-A317, this time in patients with bladder cancer (see story). The first pivotal trial is testing BGB-A317 in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma. Last week, BeiGene announced positive preliminary data from a Phase I trial of the candidate in patients with advanced liver cancer. In the trial, BGB-A317 was generally well-tolerated and showed signs of efficacy in the heavily pre-treated patients. The news sent BeiGene's stock 21% higher to $54.46, an all-time high.
Athenex (NSDQ: ATNX) announced the CFDA accepted its IND filing to start China clinical trials of Oraxol, an oral formulation of the chemotherapy paclitaxel (see story). Athenex, headquartered in Buffalo, New York, also has operations in Chongqing. The company has been conducting a US Phase III trial of Oraxol in patients with metastatic breast cancer since 2015, with initial data analysis expected later this year. To facilitate uptake of the oral drug, Athenex administers Oraxol along with a P-gp pump inhibitor (HM30181A), which the company in-licensed from South Korea's Hanmi Pharma (KRX:128940).
In late May, ChinaBio® Group and EBD Group convened the ninth iteration of the ChinaBio® Partnering Forum (see story). This year's event took place against a very positive industry backdrop of rapidly accelerating change -- 34 new funds focused on China life-science funds raised over $15 billion last year and $5.4 billion was invested, three times the previous year's $1.8 billion. In addition, China has taken numerous steps to bring its drug development regulations in line with global practices, a "sea change" that will speed up approvals of novel drugs. The ninth CBPF, which took place in Zhuhai, China, hosted 858 attendees representing 460 companies from 30 countries. It featured over 50 company presentations, and the attendees scheduled a record-breaking 1,682 meetings from over 6,800 requests.