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Week in Review: Nanjing Legend Files to Stage IPO in the US
Deals and Financings
Nanjing Legend Biotech, a subsidiary of GenScript (HK: 1548), has filed for an IPO on a US exchange (see story). In 2017, Legend surprised the world when its CAR-T therapy produced a 94% response rate in pretreated multiple myeloma patients. Six months later, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) partnered the treatment in a deal that paid Legend $350 million upfront, plus unspecified milestones and royalties. The CAR-T candidate, JNJ-4528, is now in Phase II trials in the US.
Harbour BioMed (HBM) raised $75 million in a Series B+ round to advance its clinical-stage compounds and portfolio of next-gen biotherapies for cancer and immunological diseases (see story). The company builds its portfolio by in-licensings and via its proprietary Harbour Mice® program. Harbour develops drugs for China and US markets, while it has entered partnerships to discover candidates for China companies Innovent and BeiGene, along with other prominent global biopharmas. The company previously completed an $85 million Series B financing in August 2018. HBM is headquartered in Cambridge, MA, and it conducts R&D in Suzhou and Shanghai.
GenFleet Therapeutics (Shanghai) closed a $57 million Series B financing, co-led by CDH Investments and Shenzhen Capital Group (see story). Founded in 2017, GenFleet is developing novel large and small therapeutic molecules for oncology and immunology targets. The company says its projects are potential first-in-class therapeutics with technical advantages and large markets. It will use the capital for ex-China development and clinical trials of its existing pipelines, plus expanding its immunology platform, working on new projects and building an industrial base.
Arctic Vision of Shanghai in-licensed greater China rights to Xipere™, a treatment for macular edema associated with uveitis, from Clearside Bio (NSDQ: CLSD) in a $35.5 million agreement (see story). Founded last year, Arctic in-licenses breakthrough ophthalmology products for China. Xipere is its first deal. Arctic plans to acquire China rights to 3-5 products and then expand to a combination of global rights and internal discovery for additional drugs. Clearside, which is located in Alpharetta, Georgia, said Xipere is a proprietary suspension of the corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide.
Exuma Biotech (formerly F1 Oncology), a Florida-Shanghai company developing CAR-T products for solid tumors, closed a $19 million Series B round (see story). The financing included investments from MSD Partners and F1 BioVentures, plus conversion of notes held by individual investors. Exuma's Logic Gated CAR-T products become activated only when the target antigen and the tumor microenvironment are both present, reducing off-tumor side effects. The company has started clinical trials of two candidates. Exuma's Shanghai subsidiary oversees the company's development, manufacturing, and commercial units in Shanghai and Shenzhen.
OBiO Technology (Shanghai) completed a B+ Round of more than $15 million for its viral-based gene therapy CRO services and genetic drug CDMO/CMO services (see story). Founded in 2013, OBiO collaborated with GE Healthcare to establish the first domestic GMP viral production workshop in China and supply CRO/CDMO/CMO services for viral drugs. At the same time, OBiO is incubating gene therapy drugs for cancer therapy with three ADC candidates for oncotherapy that have proprietary IP. The B+ Round investors included GP Capital, Sinowisdom and Efung Capital.
Shanghai OPM Biosciences raised $14 million from China Life Medical Fund to support its CDMO service platform (see story). The company offers serum-free media for cell cultures based on animal cells, as well as a full-range of cell culture development services. It customizes high-quality personalized animal cell culture media to optimize the cell culture process and reduce production costs. OPM has developed a variety of chemically defined CHO/HEK293 cell culture media and nutritional products. The company claims its media improve cell growth and expression.
China Immunotech Biotech of Beijing completed a $6.5 million Series A financing, led by Jianxin Capital with Grower Venture Capital and Huacheng Group participating (see story). Founded in March 2018, China Immunotech is developing TCR-T and CAR-T products that target hematological tumors, solid tumors and virus-related diseases. It has two unique technology platforms, STAR-T and TCR-T. The STAR-T platform uses a proprietary structure of antigen receptor complexes. The company believes the platform provides multi-targeted molecules with better efficacy, fewer side effects and easier development than traditional CAR-T products.
Chengdu's HitGen has signed a licensing agreement to develop a novel class of drugs for Kaken, a Japanese (TK: 4521) specialty pharma (see story). HitGen has already used its large library of small molecule and macrocyclic compounds to identify potential candidates. Few details were released, but Kaken is known to be concentrating its R&D on inflammation/immunology (dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis), pain relief and fungal infections. One year ago, the two companies formed a similar collaboration, presumably for other targets. HitGen will receive an upfront payment and be eligible to receive preclinical and clinical milestones.
Trials and Approvals
Suzhou Ascentage Pharma (HK: 6855), announced approvals for three clinical studies of APG-2575, a novel Bcl-2 inhibitor, two in the US and one in China (see story). APG-2575 is an oral drug designed to treat several hematologic malignancies by blocking Bcl-2 to restore the normal apoptosis process in cancer cells. According to Ascentage, the candidate is the first China-made Bcl-2 inhibitor to start clinical trials. In its Phase I clinical studies, APG-2575 did not exhibit any dose-limiting toxicity or tumor lysis syndrome (which is commonly associated with other Bcl-2 inhibitors).
Denovo Biopharma, a San Diego-Beijing precision medicine company, has discovered a novel genetic biomarker for depression that it intends to use with DB104, a triple dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (see story). The company made the discovery using its proprietary biomarker discovery platform. Denovo licensed DB104 from Albany Molecular Research. Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) returned the candidate to Albany after two Phase IIb clinical trials in treatment-resistant depression. The biomarker is one of four DeNovo biomarkers aimed at psychiatric use.
I-Mab (NSDQ: IMAB), a Shanghai clinical-stage biopharma, has started to develop TJM2 (TJ003234) to treat cytokine release syndrome in severe cases of COVID-19 (see story). TJM2 is an I-Mab-discovered neutralizing antibody that binds human granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), an important cytokine that plays a critical role in acute and chronic inflammation. By binding GM-CSF, TJM2 prevents downstream signaling and target cell activation, inhibiting other inflammatory responses. I-Mab intends to start clinical trials in the US and expand to countries especially hard-hit by COVID-19.
Mesoblast (NSDQ: MESO; ASX: MSB), an Australia-based regenerative medicine company, announced plans to start trials of remestemcel-L, its allogeneic mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) product candidate, in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) caused by COVID-19 (see story). The trial will be conducted in the US, Australia, China and Europe. ARDS is the principal cause of death in COVID-19 patients. In a small China trial, allogeneic MSCs cured or significantly improved all seven patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.
Ascletis (HK: 1672), a Hangzhou biopharma, reported that an initial group of 11 COVID-19 patients all recovered after being treated with a combination Ganovo® and Ritonavir therapy (see story). Ascletis's Ganovo, the first approved direct-acting anti-viral agent developed by a China company, was launched in 2018 to treat hepatitis C. Ritonavir is a generic anti-retroviral that is used in AIDS/HIV combination therapies. The small clinical trial was led by Dr. Hongyi Chen, the director of the Ninth Hospital of Nanchang.