publication date: Mar 27, 2021
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD
Deals and Financings
Sino Biopharm (HK: 1177) announced a deal worth up to $200 million to acquire a 60% stake in Softhale, a Belgium company that has developed a novel Soft Mist Inhaler (see story). Sino Bio will pay $110 million upfront plus a share of profits. The Softhaler® device is a technically flexible delivery technology that increases spray volume, allowing more active ingredients than current SMI devices. It is aimed at asthma or COPD therapies. Sino Bio acquired the 60% stake from New Rhein Healthcare; it also acquired a 25% Softhale share from PM Equity Partner.
Wuhan's Chime Biologics has commitments for a $190 million A+ round from institutional investors, which it will use to support its CDMO operations (see story). One year ago, Chime was formed by spinning out the manufacturing operations from Taiwan's JHL Biotech after JHL was found guilty of violating Genentech's patents. The new financing was led by VMS Group and joined by Fidelity International and Panacea Venture. Last year, Chime Biologics completed its Series A round financing of $125 million. Chime's facilities are located in Wuhan BioLake Park.
Brii Biosciences, a Shanghai-US company developing anti-infectives and CNS products for China, completed a $155 million Series C financing (see story). Brii develops its own anti-infective candidates for drug-resistant and otherwise difficult-to-treat pathogens. and it in-licenses other programs. Over the past year, several reports have surfaced that Brii is planning a Hong Kong IPO. The C round was led by Invesco Developing Markets Fund with additional funding from GIC and an unnamed global fund.
EpimAb of Shanghai raised $120 million in a Series C financing for its portfolio of bispecific antibody therapies (see story). Proceeds from the round will be used to fund clinical development of EMB-01, EMB-02 and EMB-06, and to expand the company’s pipeline of novel bispecific antibodies and other biologics, which are mainly focused on oncology indications. The financing was co-led by China Merchants Bank International and Mirae Asset Financial Group.
Hangzhou Innoforce Pharma completed a $96 million Series A financing to support its CRO/CDMO and biomanufacturing services (see story). Innoforce earmarked the proceeds to build a large campus for its operations in Hangzhou Bay Biotech Valley. The first phase of construction will cover 590,550 square feet and will meet international GMP standards for biologic manufacturing and bioprocess development laboratories. In addition to standard CRO services, Innoforce plans to offer equity investment to select partners.
Shanghai ImmuneOnco Biopharma completed an $89 million Series C funding led by Guangdong's Greater Homeland Bay Area Investments and Lilly Asia Ventures (see story). Founded in 2015, ImmuneOnco has established discovery platforms that exploit two types of innate immune cells: macrophages and natural killer (NK) cells. The company has been approved to start two clinical trials: IMM01, an anti-CD47 fusion protein, was approved in China, and IMM0306, a bispecific antibody targeting CD47 and CD20, was approved in the US.
Bioheng Biotech of Nanjing completed an $80 million Series B financing to develop its novel allogeneic cellular oncology immunotherapies (see story). Founded in 2017, Bioheng says its CAR-T candidates offer immediate treatment and lower costs. The company has developed an allogeneic immunotherapy platform and built a 75,000 square foot GMP translational/manufacturing facility. The B round was co-led by GL Ventures, Decheng Capital and Octagon Capital, with BlueRun Ventures and Shenzhen Capital participating.
XtalPi, a Boston-Shenzhen AI drug discovery company, participated in the $46 million B funding round for PhoreMost, a UK company with a novel drug discovery platform (see story). Both XtalPi and PhoreMost claim expertise in drug discovery for targets considered undruggable, and they expect their platforms may offer additional benefits when used together. The B round was led by BGF, with participation from XtalPi and other new and existing investors. Dr. Alan Jiang, XtalPi's Chief Strategy Officer will join PhoreMost's Board.
CASI Pharma (NSDQ: CASI), a Maryland-Beijing company. raised $32.5 million in a private placement to in-license drugs for China (see story). Earlier this month, CASI acquired greater China rights to a p97 inhibitor from San Francisco's Cleave Therapeutics in an $85 million agreement. The two companies will develop the candidate to treat hematological malignancies and solid tumors. CASI plans to use the proceeds from the placement for clinical trials, working capital and acquiring rights to additional products.
Tavotek Biotherapeutics, a Philadelphia-Suzhou biotech, raised more than $20 million in Round A1 and Round A2 financings over the last two months (see story). Tavotek said it would use the capital for CMC production and IND filings of its three lead antibody drugs. It will also expand its bispecific/multispecific antibody pipelines and intracellular peptide (MIP) programs for autoimmune and oncology indications. In 2019, Tavotek was founded with an initial round from Apricot Capital. Tavotek has R&D operations in the Philadelphia area and Suzhou.
Zenas BioPharma, a cross-border startup, in-licensed a portfolio of seven candidates for autoimmune and rare diseases (see story). Zenas, with operations in Hong Kong and Boston, owns worldwide rights to three of its seven pipeline programs. The company claims its expertise in autoimmune diseases helps it to select candidates with best-in-class potential. It plans to use development and commercial strategies to meet patient needs and the requirement for value. Zenas was founded by Tellus BioVentures and Fairmount Funds Management.
AllianThera Biopharma, a Suzhou startup, broke out of stealth mode by announcing a collaboration with Hong Kong's Insilico Medicine, to discover and develop molecules for novel cancer and autoimmune targets (see story). AllianThera said it intends to focus on disease biology, adopting novel technologies to address new targets, including targets that most biopharmas consider too risky to explore. Insilico Medicine combines AI, genomics, big data analysis and deep learning for in silico drug discovery.
Trials and Approvals
Citrine Medicine, a Shanghai-Boston rare disease company, received a waiver to market a treatment for narcolepsy in China without a clinical trial (see story). Six months ago, Citrine acquired China rights to Wakix® (pitolisant), a drug already approved in the EU and US to treat narcolepsy in adult patients with and without cataplexy. Citrine will file an NDA in China using data from the US and Europe. Citrine's $80 million Series A round was led by Quan Capital.
Beijing's Eucure Biopharma reported "encouraging" results from an Australian Phase I trial of its anti-CTLA-4 antibody in patients with solid tumor cancers (see story). YH001 was administered in combination with Junshi Biosciences' (HK: 1877; SHA: 688180) anti-PD-1 mAb, toripalimab injection (Tuoyi). In preclinical tests, YH001 outperformed Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY) Yervoy, according to Eucure. Eucure is a division of Biocytogen, a China-US drug biotech discovery and early-stage development CRO.