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Week in Review: China Biopharma Starts 2021 with Over $1 Billion in Deals and IPOs

publication date: Jan 9, 2021
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD

Deals and Financings

Gracell Biotech (NSDQ: GRCL) of Suzhou completed a $209 million NASDAQ IPO for its next-gen CAR-T treatments (see story). Gracell set out to address the difficulties presented by previous cell therapies, including complex manufacture, lack of off-the-shelf products and the short duration of efficacy. Gracell uses two platforms for discovery: FasTCAR, which manufactures autologous CAR-T products in 22-36 hours (rather than two to six weeks); and TruUCAR, which offers off-the-shelf CAR-T products. Gracell has a market cap of $1.7 billion after climbing 38% in early trading.  

APT Medical (SHA: 688617) completed a $191 million IPO on the Shanghai STAR Exchange, rising 245% in its first trading session to a market cap of $2.7 billion (see story). Founded in 2002, the company makes a variety of affordable catheters for cardiovascular conditions. Its offerings include coronary artery access and electrophysiological products, plus peripheral blood vessels and nerve intervention medical products. APT claims to have the largest China market share among domestic electrophysiological medical device companies. Qiming Ventures was an early investor with a 19% stake in the company after the IPO.  

Shanghai's Zai Lab (NSDQ: ZLAB; HK: 9688) acquired greater China rights to an argenx SE (Euronext & NSDQ: ARGX) novel treatment for autoimmune indications in a deal worth up to $175 million in upfront and near-term payments (see story). argenex's efgartigimod is close to US approval for use in patients with generalized myasthenia gravis. Efgartigimod is an investigational antibody fragment that binds to the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) to reduce disease-causing immunoglobulin G antibodies. argenx is a Dutch company that has offices in Belgium, the US and Japan.  

Abbisko Therapeutics of Shanghai completed a $123 million Series D financing to develop its portfolio of 12 oncology and one diabetes candidates that it hopes will be best-in-class treatments (see story). The company's two lead products are a small molecule FGFR4 inhibitor for hepatocellular carcinoma and a CSF1R inhibitor for solid tumors. The D round was led by The Carlyle Group, with leading investors Warburg Pincus, OrbiMed, Lake Bleu Capital and one unnamed firm.   

Advaccine Biopharma Suzhou announced a $108 million agreement to acquire Greater China rights to a DNA vaccine for COVID-19 from Inovio  (NSDQ: INO) of Pennsylvania (see story). As part of the deal, Advaccine will out-license its plasmid manufacturing process to Innovio for use with INO-4800, the COVID vaccine, and its other candidates. Advaccine is already collaborating with Inovio in a China Phase II trial of INO-4800 that has enrolled 640 subjects. The endpoints of the test are safety and immunogenicity in a China population. http://www.chinabiotoday.com/articles/advaccine-inovio-covid19-vaccine 

Terns Pharma, a San Mateo-Shanghai biopharma, completed a $87 million Series C round to support its three lead NASH programs (see story). The financing was led by Deerfield Management Company and included a strategic equity investment from Eli Lilly. In 2018, Terns was founded with three small molecule targeted therapies for NASH that it in-licensed from Lilly and also an initial $30 million Lilly investment. Terns has development teams in California and Shanghai, though it plans to commercialize its products mainly in China.  

Boston's Paratek Pharma (NSDQ: PRTK) closed a $60 million non-recourse loan with an affiliate of R-Bridge Healthcare that will be paid off by royalties from Paratek's China omadacycline out-licensing agreement with Zai Lab (NSDQ: ZLAB; HK: 9688) (see story). In May 2020, Zai filed an NDA for Paratek's omadacycline, an antibiotic, that was accepted by China's NMPA for priority review. Omadacycline was tested as a treatment for community-acquired bacterial pneumonia and acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections. R-Bridge is part of China's CBC Group (formerly C-Bridge Capital).  

Kira Pharma closed a $53.5 million Series B+ financing to develop complement-targeted therapies that treat immune-mediated diseases (see story). Kira is headquartered in Cambridge, MA with R&D operations in Suzhou. The company. which described the oversubscribed round as a first closing, expects to start clinical trials of three complement-targeted therapies in the next 18 months. The financing was co-led by RA Capital Management and Vivo Capital.  

Keya Medical completed a $46 million D financing in late December to support its automated scanning products based on deep learning algorithms (see story). It was the company's fourth funding in 2020 that included a $22 million Series B+ and a $14 million Series B. The company is headquartered in Seattle, where it is known a CuraCloud, with operations in Beijing and Shenzhen. All of its investors are China-based firms. Keya markets products that analyze cardiovascular and neurological conditions.  

Shanghai's Ocumension Therapeutics (HK: 1477) invested $15.7 million in its US partner, EyePoint Pharma (NSDQ: EYPT) of Massachusetts (see story). Previously, Ocumension acquired China rights to EyePoint's two commercial products: Yutiq®, a treatment for chronic non-infectious uveitis affecting the posterior segment of the eye, and Dexycu®, a postoperative inflammation treatment following ocular surgery. In July, Ocumension completed a $184 million Hong Kong IPO and climbed 152% in its first trading session, giving the company a valuation of about $2.5 billion.  

Trials and Approvals

Everest Medicines (HK: 1952) was approved to start a China Phase III trial of sacituzumab govitecan-hziy in patients with metastatic urothelial cancer (see story). The candidate is a first-in-class, antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) aimed at TROP-2, a membrane antigen that is over-expressed in many epithelial cancers. In 2019, Everest entered an $835 million agreement ($65 million upfront) to acquire China rights to the ADC from Immunmedics, now part of Gilead (NSDQ: GILD).  Everest completed a $451 million IPO in Hong Kong three months ago.  

Company News

Shanghai Pharmaceuticals (SHA: 601607; HK: 2607) broke ground on a $1.8 billion, 3.2 million-square-foot industrial park that will add an increased focus on its novel drug development efforts (see story). The company said the new site would develop cell and gene therapies and manufacture therapeutic antibodies. When completely built out, the facility will include 538,000 square feet for an incubation platform and another 861,000 square feet for antibody manufacturing. It will eventually house 120,000 liters of antibody reactors.  

Disclosure: none.


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