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Week in Review: Ping An Announces $1 Billion Fin-Tech/Healthcare VC Fund
Deals and Transactions
Ping An Insurance Group (HK: 2318; SHA: 601318), China's largest insurer by market value, announced plans to launch a $1 billion international fund that will invest in fin-tech and healthcare startups (see story). Ping An is already a player in the fin-tech area with Lufax, China's biggest peer-to-peer lending and wealth management platform. In healthcare, the company offers Ping An Good Doctor, a mobile app, which has 140 million users and is, says Ping An, the first healthcare stop for many people in China.
WuXi NextCODE, the contract genomics arm of the WuXi AppTec Group, closed a $75 million Series B financing from the company's existing investors and partners (see story). WuXi AppTec acquired NextCODE, which used the largely homogenous genomic profile of Iceland as a base, in early 2015 for $65 million. WuXi said the B round financing will underwrite consumer products in China. WuXi NextCODE has operations in Shanghai, Cambridge, Mass. and Reykjavik, Iceland.
Epic Sciences of San Diego closed a $40 million Series D financing led by Hong Kong's Hermed Capital (see story). Epic is developing a portfolio of blood-based tests that predict drug response in cancer. Its most advanced product, the OncotypeDx AR-V7 Nucleus Detect test, helps physicians decide whether taxane chemotherapy or targeted therapies is the better treatment for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Hermed intends to help Epic bring its product(s) to China.
China's Maccura Biotechnology (SHZ: 300463) formed a joint venture with Qiagen of the Netherlands to develop and market Qiagen's (NSDQ: QGEN) GeneReader NGS system in China (see story). Maccura is a China IVD company. It will own 60% of the JV, which is named Maqgen, while Qiagen will own the rest. Qiagen claims the GeneReader NGS System is the world's first complete Sample-to-Insight reader and makes NGS available to any laboratory. The JV will focus initially on research use of the machine and broaden that to include Class III hospital networks.
Trials and Approvals
Uni-Bio Science Group (HK: 690) launched Bokangtai, its oral treatment for Type 2 diabetes, in Fujian province (see story). In 2015, Uni-Bio acquired China rights to Bokangtai, a member of the glinides class of diabetes treatments, from Jiangsu Hansoh Pharma. Uni-Bio has also submitted tenders for Bokangtai in Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangdong and Sichuan, with plans to market Bokangtai in at least 10 provinces by the end of 2017. The drug was included in the 2017 National Reimbursement Drug List. Uni-Bio's R&D operation is located in Dongguan, China.
Venus Medtech of Hangzhou received CFDA registration to market its transcatheter aortic valve system in China (see story). The Venus A-valve, which was specifically designed for China patients, is the first Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation device approved for China use. For inoperable/high-risk patients, the device offers a less invasive alternative than the usual open-heart surgery and cardiopulmonary bypass surgery. Because of the minimally invasive technique, patients recover more quickly.
Impact Therapeutics of Nanjing announced its IND for a PARP inhibitor, IMP4297, was approved by the CFDA (see story). Impact believes IMP4297 has the potential to become a best-in-class drug. In February, Impact began a Australian Phase I trial of the candidate and has already treated its first patient in China as well. The company said the CFDA issued its approval only one year after the application was submitted, showing the CFDA's reforms are speeding up the regulatory process. IMP4297 is a Class 1.1 candidate that was discovered and developed in China.
Sirnaomics, a US-China RNAi company, received China approval of its Class 1.1 IND application for its lead siRNA (small interfering RNA) treatment for hypertrophic scar (see story). The IND, which was filed by Sirnaomics' China subsidiary in Suzhou, is the first novel siRNA from a China company to start clinical trials. STP705 (Cotsiranib®) is already in Phase II trials in the US. STP705 (Cotsiranib®) is already in Phase II trials in the US. Sirnaomics partnered China development of STP705 with Xiangxue Pharmaceuticals (SHE: 300147) of Guangzhou.
Beijing's Yisheng Biopharma dosed the first patient in a Phase I trial of its lead drug candidate, an immuno-oncology product aimed at treating solid tumor cancers (see story). YS-ON-001 has multiple immuno-modulating mechanisms, according to the company. In the US, the FDA granted YS-ON-001 orphan drug designation as a treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma last year. Yisheng develops vaccines and oncology drugs, all of which are based on its proprietary PIKA adjuvant technology.
Sorrento Therapeutics (NSDQ: SRNE), a San Diego-Nanjing company developing antibody drug conjugates, completed construction of a 25,000 square foot GMP manufacturing facility in Suzhou (see story). The facility is run by Sorrento's subsidiary, Levena Biopharma, which is also in charge of Sorrento's 12 ADC partnerships with global biopharmas. The company said the facility, which has state-of-the-art equipment for the difficult process development and manufacturing of ADC drugs, will also provide supplies of two wholly-owned Sorrento ADC molecules that are close to IND stage.
CARsgen Therapeutics opened its new manufacturing facility in Shanghai, which it will use to make its chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T cell) therapies for solid tumors (see story). The facility will manufacture vectors and CAR-T cells to support CARsgen's clinical programs. CARsgen has two CAR-T trials underway, one for hepatocellular carcinoma and another for glioblastoma multiforme, plus it plans to file five IND applications to the CFDA and receive at least one IND approval from the US FDA by the end of 2018.