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Week in Review: I-Mab Files for Hong Kong SPAC IPO to Acquire Life Science Company
Deals and Financings
Shanghai I-Mab and one of its investors, VMS, have filed for a Hong Kong IPO of a SPAC, Vivere Lifesciences Acquisition, that will seek to acquire an innovative China life science company (see story). The target company is expected to be based in China or have “a significant China angle,” though the SPAC founders promise not to have a specific company in mind, VMS will own 52% of the Founder SPAC shares, I-Mab will have a 30% stake, and individuals associated with the two companies will own the rest. Usually, the SPAC’s founding members are rewarded with a 20% block of the SPAC’s shares for their work.
RVAC Medicines, a Singapore mRNA platform company, completed a Series B funding led by CBC Group that brings total funds raised since its inception to $140 million (see story). CBC also incubated the company. RVAC is headquartered in Singapore with R&D centers in Boston and Shanghai. The company will target unmet medical needs, especially in emerging markets, by developing novel vaccines and therapeutics including a potentially best-in-class COVID vaccine. It will use the proceeds to develop its pipeline and to build a new R&D center in Singapore and manufacturing facilities in Singapore and China.
Vivo Capital will invest $60 million in a new JV that it formed with Arrowhead Pharma (NSDQ: ARWR), a Pasadena, CA biotech, which will have China rights to four Arrowhead RNAi candidates (see story). The new JV, Visirna, will pay royalties on sales to Arrowhead, but will not make any upfront payments or milestones. Vivo pledged to leverage its Greater China network to support Visirna, including recruiting a leadership team while also overseeing development, clinical, and regulatory strategies in China. In the future, Visirna will develop its own RNAi drugs and in-license others. Arrowhead owns a majority stake in Visirna.
Huadong Medicine (SHZ: 0963) of Hangzhou entered a $45 million deal for China rights to four novel hydroxyl dendrimer candidates developed by Ashvattha Therapeutics of Redwood City, CA (see story). The $45 million was part of Ashvattha’s $69 million Series B financing, which was announced at the same time. Ashvattha said HDTs have been shown to selectively target reactive inflammatory cells in diseased tissue, with the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier for neurology, ophthalmology and inflammatory disease indications. Huadong, founded in 1993, in-licenses products to diversify its portfolio of China drugs.
Xbiome acquired global rights to a clinical-stage microbiome candidate for mild to moderate ulcerative colitis from Assembly Biosciences of South San Francisco (see story). M201 is comprised of commensal bacteria that are known to modulate ulcerative colitis-relevant cellular mechanisms in human cell-based assays and animal models. Xbiome was previously headquartered in Shenzhen. It has moved its headquarters and an R&D lab to Cambridge, MA, though it continues to have operations in Beijing and Shenzhen. In late 2021, Xbiome completed a $100 million funding from China investors.
Guizhou Sinorda Biomedicine, a novel cell and gene therapy company, announced a long-term strategic cell and gene therapy R&D partnership with CDMO Suzhou Porton Advanced Solutions (see story). Sinorda is developing innovative digestive tract, immunotherapy and oncolytic virus products, with several candidates in clinical stage. Porton will provide services to accelerate the development of Sinorda’s cell therapies, including its Sentinel lymph node T cell immunotherapy for colorectal cancer. Porton offers an end-to-end gene and cell therapy CDMO service platform for plasmids, cell therapy, gene therapy, oncolytic virus, mRNA therapy and Bacterial Therapy.
Chimera Bioengineering of South San Francisco has won the Asian Fund for Cancer Research 2021 BRACE Award for its CAR-T research in cancers important to China patients (see story). The BRACE award includes a $7.5 million prize. Chimera’s GOLD platform reprograms RNA gene regulation circuits to alter chimeric antigen receptors on T cells. The company engineers CAR-T cell therapies that weaken tumor microenvironments, increasing the efficacy of the CAR-T medicinal payload. BRACE stands for Bridging Research from Academic to Cancer Entrepreneurship. Chimera develops CAR-T therapies for solid tumor cancers.
Trials and Approvals
LianBio (NSDQ: LIAN), a Shanghai-Princeton in-licensing company, reported its partner, Bristol-Myers Squibb, was approved for a US launch of Camzyos™ (mavacamten) as a therapy for obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (obstructive HCM) (see story). In 2020, LianBio in-licensed China/SE Asia rights to the drug from MyoKardia in a deal worth $188 million. MyoKardia was subsequently acquired by BMS. LianBio is conducting a China Phase III double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled registrational study of mavacamten to determine its safety and efficacy in China patients with HCM.
Suzhou Transcenta (HK: 06628) has dosed the first patient in a China Phase I trial of a novel therapy for osteoporosis (see story). TST002 (blosozumab) is a humanized anti-sclerostin monoclonal antibody aimed at osteoporosis and other bone loss diseases. Its dual mechanism simultaneously stimulates bone formation and inhibits bone absorption to increase bone mineral density and bone strength. In 2019, Transcenta acquired Greater China rights to blosozumab from Eli Lilly in exchange for an upfront payment of cash and Transcenta equity shares, plus milestones and royalty payments.
Shenzhen SonoScape Medical (SHZ: 300633) released the latest software upgrade of its lead ultrasound product, S-Fetus 4.0, with new features based on deep learning (see story). The S-Fetus 4.0 Obstetric Screening Assistant allows doctors to automatically acquire standard planes and measure fetal biometry with fast, accurate readings from a single click. It is the first deep-learning upgrade to a China medical device, the company said. Founded in 2002, SonoScape provides ultrasound and endoscopy machines as well as tools for minimally invasive surgeries in more than 130 countries.