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Week in Review: Curon Bio Acquires Rights to Lymphoma Drug in $150 Million Deal

publication date: Oct 17, 2020
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD

Deals and Financings

Curon Biopharma, a Shanghai clinical-stage in-licensing company, acquired China rights to Tenalisib, a dual PI3K delta and gamma inhibitor, from Rhizen Pharma of Switzerland (see story). Rhizen will receive upfront and milestone payments worth up to $149.5 million, plus royalties. Tenalisib is in US Phase II trials for lymphoma. In 2018, Curon raised $150 million in a Series A financing led by 6 Dimensions Capital, Boyu Capital, and Temasek. The company pledged to develop next-gen cancer immunotherapies for patients.

China's EdiGene raised $67 million in a Series B round to develop its genome editing technologies (see story).The company is developing a portfolio of molecules aimed at genetic diseases and cancer, and it also offers drug discovery services using its CRISPR/Cas 9 proprietary high-throughput screening platforms. Founded in 2015, EdiGene is headquartered in Beijing, with operations in Guangzhou and Boston. The company said it would use the proceeds to advance its drug candidates into clinical trials.

ImmuneOnco, a Shanghai oncology immunotherapy company, completed a $25 million Series B financing, led by Lilly Asia Fund (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 monoclonal antibody drugs that target immune regulation pathways. ImmuneOnco said the capital would support clinical studies of two ImmuneOnco candidates, IMM01, an anti-CD47 fusion protein, and IMM0306, a bispecific antibody targeting CD47-CD20.  

HitGen (SHA: 688222) will acquire Vernalis Limited, a Cambridge, UK CRO, from Ligand Pharma (NSDQ: LGND) for $25 million (see story). HitGen, a Chengdu small molecule drug development CRO, said its operations are a good fit with Vernalis' expertise in fragment and structure-based drug discovery research. HitGen has built DNA-encoded chemical libraries (DELs) that contain billions of novel drug-like small molecule and macrocycle compounds and established discovery partnerships with more than 50 global biopharmas.  

CBC Group (formerly C-Bridge Capital), a Singapore-Shanghai investor, merged two of its Shanghai portfolio companies, AffaMed Therapeutics and EverInsight Therapeutics, into a single entity under the AffaMed name (see story). Both companies in-license ophthalmologic and central nervous system (CNS) products. In 2019, AffaMed acquired China rights to three Samsung Bioepis ophthalmology biosimilars. In June, EverInsight acquired China/Southeast Asia rights to a rapid-onset anxiety treatment from VistaGen in a $177 million agreement.

Last week, ReadCoor, a Boston company that developed an In Situ sequencing technology, was acquired by10x Genomics for $350 million. ReadCoor was backed by Decheng Capital, a Shanghai-Silicon Valley venture firm (see story). From their first meeting, Decheng was impressed with ReadCoor's technology, which measures large numbers of molecules directly in tissue while preserving the precise location of the molecules in the tissue -- the new field of spatial-omics. In an exclusive interview, the company told ChinaBio® Today about ReadCoor's revolutionary technology and its significance for functional genomics, drug development and the understanding of disease.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Singapore's Aslan Pharma (NSDQ: ASLN) announced plans to develop ASLAN003, its next-gen dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH) inhibitor in autoimmune conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) (see story). It will also test the candidate as a treatment for COVID-19 and other viral infections. According to Aslan, ASLAN003 has shown 30 times the potency for inhibiting the DHODH enzyme in pre-clinical tests as first-gen molecules. In 2019, Aslan completed a Phase II trial of ASLAN003 in AML, but decided not to continue its development for the indication.

Company News 

Qihan Biotech, a Hangzhou company applying genome editing to cell therapies and organ transplantation, has started a program to develop human stem cells with reduced immunogenicity (see story). If successful, the cells will have the potential to be universal, allogeneic therapies that could be administered without (or at lower levels of) immunosuppressive drugs. Qihan said it is working with a leading stem cell company on the project, but did not disclose the company's name.

PPD (NSDQ: PPD), a global CRO, announced plans to build a new laboratory in Suzhou to support China drug development (see story). The 67,000-square-foot facility, which will offer bioanalytical, biomarker and vaccine services, will hire an additional 350 staff members. Planned for completion in 2021, the facility will be located in the Suzhou New District, Jiangsu Province. PPD already operates a Shanghai central lab that offers safety and efficacy testing, custom specimen collection kits and biorepository services for clinical trials.

Cue Health of San Diego was awarded a $481 million US Defense Department grant to ramp up production of its rapid point-of-care molecular coronavirus tests (see story). In return for the grant, the US will receive six million tests and 30,000 test readers. Cue expects to deliver at least half of that before the end of 2020. In June, Decheng Capital, a Shanghai-Silicon Valley healthcare investor, participated in a $100 million C funding of Cue Health.

Trials and Approvals

Suzhou Innovent Bio (HK: 01801) and Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) announced their Rituxan biosimilar was approved in China for lymphoma and leukemia indications (see story). Halpryza® (rituximab injection) is Innovent's fourth mAb approved for China use. It is a recombinant human/murine chimeric monoclonal antibody drug that was co-developed by Innovent and Lilly. The biosimilar is indicated for China patients with diffuse large b cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

An Ascletis Pharma (HKEX: 1672) subsidiary, Gannex Pharma, was approved to begin US clinical trials of its novel candidate for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) (see story). Developed in-house, ASC42 is a non-steroidal, selective Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) agonist that Gannex believes has best-in-class potential. The candidate is one of three potential treatments that Ascletis is developing for NASH. Gannex said ASC42 demonstrated significant improvements in liver steatosis, inflammation and fibrosis in animal models of NASH.

Disclosure: none 



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