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Week in Review: CANbridge Raises $98 Million for In-licensed Orphan Disease and Targeted Cancer Candidates
Deals and Financings
CANbridge Pharma, a Beijing biopharma developing products for orphan diseases and targeted cancers, closed a $98 million Series D financing led by General Atlantic and WuXi AppTec (see story). Each of the two companies has the option to invest up to an additional $10 million. CANbridge has a global partnership with WuXi Biologics to develop novel therapeutics that treat rare genetic diseases. In January, CANbridge acquired China rights from South Korea's GC Pharma to commercialize Hunterase®, an enzyme replacement therapy for patients with Hunter syndrome.
Anngeen Technologies of Beijing raised more than $14 million in a Series B financing to support its gene sequencing services for clinical diagnosis (see story). The company has set up at least 10 centers in partnership with hospitals to apply next-gen sequencing and bioinformatics to diagnose hereditary diseases in cardiovascular, kidney, blood and hereditary cancer conditions. It also provides individualized medication guidance and tumor molecular detection along with in vitro diagnostic kits. Anngeen wants to become the world's leading provider of genetic disease detection services.
Shanghai's ImmuneOnco Biopharma raised $6.4 million in a Pre-B round to support its pre-clinical portfolio of immunotherapy cancer candidates (see story). Founded in 2015, the company is developing bi-specific antibodies, novel recombinant proteins, target-specific natural killer (NK) cells, a target-activated NK (TANK™) cell therapy, a CAR-T cell therapy, and mAbs that target immune regulation pathways. Tian Wenzhi, chairman and general manager, said the capital would support clinical studies of two ImmuneOnco candidates, IMM01 and IMM0306.
WuXi Vaccines finalized a $3 billion 20-year agreement with an unspecified "global vaccine leader" to manufacture a vaccine for the company (see story). Last year, WuXi Vaccines, a joint venture comprised of WuXi Biologics and Shanghai Hile Bio-technology, began building a $240 million production facility in Ireland that will provide worldwide supplies of the vaccine. The facility is next to a major facility under construction for WuXi Biologics (HK: 2269). WuXi and the unnamed vaccine maker expect the vaccine to produce $3 billion in revenues over 20 years.
Everest Medicines, a Shanghai in-licensing company, has appointed Kerry Blanchard, MD, PhD, as CEO. Dr. Blanchard is a long-term China biopharma executive with ten years of experience leading China drug development programs at Lilly (NYSE: LLY) and Innovent (HK: 1801) (see story). His hiring illustrates that Everest remains committed to its China-centric business plan, despite the recent COVID-19 disruption. In a statement, Dr. Blanchard said, “China’s importance to global pharmaceutical development continues to rise and I will work with the Board to explore strategic opportunities outside of our traditional focus of licensing regional rights to late-stage programs.”
Trials and Approvals
Zhejiang Hisun Pharma (SHA: 600267) reported that favilavir, a generic anti-viral, has been approved by China's NMPA to treat COVID-19, the first approved treatment for the viral outbreak (see story). According to unofficial reports, fapilavir showed efficacy with only minor side effects in an ongoing 70-patient clinical trial in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. The size of the trial and its "ongoing" nature imply that the approval will require further proof before it becomes permanent. Favilavir is a generic version of Fapilavir, an anti-catarrhal drug that clears mucous from the mucous membranes of the airway.
Ascletis Pharma (HK:1672) of Hangzhou reported that Zhejiang Province authorities approved a trial of ritonavir in patients with COVID-19 (see story). Ritonavir is a generic version of AbbVie’s Norvir, an oral antiretroviral that has been in use for over 20 years to treat HIV/AIDS. The study is being run jointly by Ascletis and the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine. According to Ascletis, it is currently conducting four clinical trials that combine ritonavir and ASC09, a protease inhibitor that is also being tested as an HIV treatment.
Harbour BioMed, a Suzhou-Shanghai biopharma, reported that HBM916, a fully human anti-FcRn monoclonal antibody aimed at autoimmune disorders, showed an "excellent" safety profile in a Hong Kong Phase I study (see story). The candidate also reduced IgC levels, its target, though HBM did not release specific data. HBM will begin clinical trials of HBM916 that enroll patients with several autoimmune diseases, including adult immune thrombocytopenia, myasthenia gravis, Grave’s ophthalmopathy and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder. In 2017, HBM acquired Greater Chins rights for two biologic drugs, including HBM916, from Korea's HanAll Biopharma (KS: 009420) in an $81 million deal.
Terns Pharma, a Shanghai-San Francisco biopharma, reported TERN-101, a potential treatment for NASH, was well tolerated and seemed to engage its FXR target in a US Phase I trial (see story). The trial was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study designed to evaluate safety, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and plasma biomarkers of FXR pathway activation. It enrolled 36 healthy participants who received placebo or TERN-101 at various dose levels for seven days. Terns said biomarker studies showed reductions in levels that imply efficacy in treating liver fibrosis.
Ascletis Pharma (HK: 1672), a Hangzhou antiviral company, has filed an IND with China's NMPA for ASC41, a self-developed Category 1 treatment for NASH (see story). Ascletis expects to combine ASC41 with ASC40, another novel Ascletis product, in trials. ASC41 is an oral thyroid hormone receptor beta (THR-beta) agonist, while ASC40 is an oral fatty acid synthase (FASN) inhibitor. In 2018, Ascletis' Ganovo®, an innovative t NS3/4A protease treatment for hepatitis C, was approved for China use, the first approved direct-acting anti-viral agent developed by a China company.