Deals and Financings
OrbiMed Advisors, a global life sciences investment firm, announced it has secured $3.5 billion in commitments for its latest capital raise, including $800 million for OrbiMed Asia Partners IV (see story). The Asia Partners series of funds invests primarily in China and India, from venture capital through growth stage for biotech, pharma, medical device, diagnostic and healthcare companies. It plans to make investments that range in size from $10 million to $100 million in approximately 20 portfolio companies.
SciClone Pharma (HK: 6600), a Shanghai in-licensing company, staged a Hong Kong IPO that raised $279 million (see story). Previously listed in the US, SciClone was privatized in 2017 for $605 million. The IPO valued the company at $1.6 billion. SciClone plans to use the proceeds to in-license additional products and fund clinical development of its existing assets. Its major marketed product is Zadaxin® (thymalfasin), an immune system adjuvant that is used to treat hepatitis B, though SciClone says it was also proved helpful for SARS and COVID-19.
WuXi AppTec, a China-global CRO/CMO, paid $135 million to acquire Oxgene, a UK CDMO that develops scaleable gene technologies to develop cell and gene therapies (see story). Previously, WuXi's gene therapy unit licensed Oxgene's novel TESSA technology for adeno-associated viral (AAV) manufacturing and XLenti stable solutions. WuXi found the technology a big improvement over the competition and wanted to invest in Oxgene, but ended up acquiring the entire company. Oxgene will become part of WuXi Advanced Therapies, WuXi's year-old cell and gene therapy Contract Testing, Development and Manufacturing Organization unit.
LianBio, a Shanghai-Princeton, NJ biopharma, acquired China rights to a novel clinical-stage respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) therapy being developed by ReViral of London (see story). Lian will make a $14 million upfront payment and also pay up to $105 million in milestones, plus royalties. ReViral's sisunatovir is an oral fusion inhibitor being tested in two global Phase II trials: one in children and the other in adult stem-cell transplant patients. Last year, LianBio was founded by Perceptive Investors, a US life science investment firm, to bring assets from Perceptive's portfolio companies to China.
GenSciences, a commercial-stage Changchun drug company, raised over $124 million in its series A and B rounds, the company announced (see story). GenSci is a wholly owned subsidiary of Changchun High-Tech Industry (SHZ: 000661), which was started as a construction company, but narrowed its focus to life science. Its portfolio includes genetically engineered pharmaceuticals, biological vaccines and modern traditional Chinese medicine. In November 2020, GenSci in-licensed China rights to ready-to-use subcutaneous depot formulations for a prostate cancer therapy from Taiwan's Foresee Pharma.
Connect Biopharma of Taicang has filed for a NASDAQ IPO that could raise $100 million to support its clinical-stage portfolio of therapies for T cell-driven inflammatory diseases (see story). Connect's lead candidate, CBP-201, is an antibody that targets interleukin-4 receptor alpha for inflammatory diseases such as atopic dermatitis and asthma. The company expects to report data from a Phase IIb trial in the 2H21. Connect says it uses functional cellular assays to conduct primary drug screens instead of high-throughput biochemical assays, resulting in differentiated products.
Biotheus, a Guangdong biotech, completed a $100 million Series D financing co-led by General Atlantic and IDG Capital (see story). Founded in 2018, Biotheus is developing a broad portfolio of me-better/novel drugs focused on immuno-oncology and metabolic diseases. So far, the company has built a portfolio of 10 innovative monoclonal and multispecific antibodies, with two bispecific antibodies in Phase I trials for cancer and a third IND application under review in China. Biotheus plans to out-license late-stage clinical and commercialization activities to global partners.
Suzhou Medilink Therapeutics, an antibody-drug conjugate startup, closed a $50 million Series A financing (see story). The financing includes a Series-A1 round led by Apricot Capital, and a series-A2 round co-led by Loyal Valley Capital and Qiming Venture Partners. Formed in 2020. Medilink focuses on next-gen drug conjugates that address unmet medical needs in China. It plans to conduct multicenter clinical trials and form cross-border collaborations. It has established an R&D lab in Suzhou.
ABclonal Biotechnology, a Wuhan life science tools and services provider, acquired Yurogen Biosystems of Boston (see story). Yurogen is a drug discovery CRO dedicated to monoclonal antibody discovery using its single-B-cell-based SMabTM platform. ABclonal positioned the acquisition as its first step toward expanding its footprint from academic research reagents to the in vitro diagnostic and pharmaceutical industries. In February, ABclonal closed a $93 million Series C round, saying it would soon announce a drug discovery acquisition.
Innoforce, a company building a biopharma production facility in Hangzhou, formed a partnership with China-US clinical CRO dMed (see story). The two companies will work together to develop innovative therapeutics from third-parties. Innoforce calls itself a PDMO -- a Partner Development and Manufacturing Organization. The two companies will form partnerships with third-party companies to provide capital, manufacturing and marketing expertise, especially for China-headed biopharma products but also for global markets.
Shanghai's Junshi Bio (HK: 1877; SHA: 688180) out-licensed certain China marketing rights for its approved PD-1 to AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) (see story). AstraZeneca will have rights to toripalimab for urothelial carcinoma and other "non-core" indications. According to Junshi, AZN has extensive networks in China, including county-level markets. Junshi has filed an NDA in China for approval of the PD-1 as a second line therapy for bladder cancer. Junshi will continue to market toripalimab for melanoma, its original indication, and will apparently take on other indications as well.
Suzhou's Kintor Pharma (HK: 9939) reported the US FDA approved a Phase III trial of proxalutamide as a treatment for male COVID-19 outpatients (see story). Proxalutamide is Kintor's novel androgen receptor (AR) antagonist that is currently being tested as a prostate and breast cancer therapy in Phase I-III trials in China and the US. Kintor says proxalutamide may limit the expression of ACE-2 and TMPRSS2, which plays a role in allowing SARS-CoV-2 to bind and enter host cells in the lung. In a clinical trial, proxalutamide significantly lowered the SARS viral load over the control.
Trials and Approvals
Apollomics, a Bay Area-Hangzhou biopharma, started a China Phase I trial of uproleselan in patients with relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML) (see story). In 2020, Apollomics acquired China rights to uproleselan from GlycoMimetics (NSDQ: GLYC) in a two-drug, $189 million deal. Both drugs are novel E-selectin-based immunotherapies aimed at leukemia. Uproleselan is designed to block E-selectin from binding with blood cancer cells, which causes drug resistance. It will be administered along with chemotherapy. Apollomics was incubated by OrbiMed Asia to develop cancer immunotherapies.
Innovent Bio (HK: 01801) of Suzhou started a US Phase I trial of its anti-CD47/PD-L1 bispecific antibody as a second-line therapy for patients with advanced malignancies (see story). According to Innovent, IBI322 binds to tumor cells more selectively than anti-CD47 monoclonal antibodies, reducing the possibility of binding to CD47 on red blood cells. This feature could reduce the toxicity associated with anti-CD47 antibodies and offer greater antitumor activity.