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Week in Review: Six China Biopharma Deals Raise a Total of $255 Million
Deals and Financings
Miaoshou Doctor, an online-offline healthcare company headquartered in Beijing, closed an $85 million Series D1 round (see story). The company offers online links between doctors and patients, online healthcare consultations and O2O services plus it operates a chain of over 200 offline pharmacies. Founded in 2015, the company says its focus is on "healthcare-medication-insurance." The company has raised at least $70 million in each of several C rounds and attained the unicorn $1 billion valuation.
Immvira Group, a Shenzhen biotech developing oncolytic virus therapies, completed a $58 million Series B financing (see story). In May, the company announced US approval to start a trial of its lead product, T3011, an intratumoral injection that encodes IL12 and anti-PD-1. Because the candidate is administered directly to the tumor, it is expected to avoid the side effects of immune-oncology therapies. The B round was led by Huagai Capital, with participation by Apricot Capital, Cowin Capital and the lead investor from a previous round, presumably Hillhouse.
eTheRNA, a Belgian biotech, raised $38 million in a Series B round to fund its immuno-oncology pipeline with two new China investors participating (see story). Grand Decade, a subsidiary of China Grand Pharma (HK:512) and Yijing Capital both contributed. China Grand Pharma will have China commercialization and manufacturing rights to certain eTheRNA programs, though details of the agreement have not been finalized. eTheRNA is also working on a pan-coronavirus mRNA-based vaccine that is expected to begin clinical trials next year.
Engrail Therapeutics, a San Diego-area neurological in-licensing company, raised $32 million in a Series A round with all the funds coming from Nan Fung Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Hong Kong property developer Nan Fung Group (see story). Engrail characterized Nan Fung's support as long term, with the parent having made a commitment to invest $1.5 billion in the Fund. So far, Engrail has acquired a modulator of GABA A, a neurotransmitter that is targeted to treat anxiety and epilepsy. Presently available GABA A modulators have side effects and can cause dependence.
Shukun Technology of Beijing raised $28 million in a B-1 Round to develop its AI-based diagnostic scanning systems (see story). The company's products are aimed at improving the efficiency of medical professionals' work and the level of diagnosis and treatment in primary hospitals. Last year, Shukun was approved to launch its product in China that diagnoses coronary stenosis using CT angiography. The company is also testing additional products for heart, head and neck conditions.
Cygnus Biosciences, a Beijing company developing next-gen gene sequencing machines, completed a C round of at least $14 million (see story). The funding was led by Guangzhou High-tech Zone Science and Technology Holdings, and Cygnus will build an industrial base, an R&D center and its sales headquarters in the Guangzhou park. Cygnus has developed a high-precision sequencing technology that applies an error-correcting decoding algorithm after the sequencing to improve accuracy. The company's goal is to provide high-end sequencing machines at a lower price.
Sinopharm reported that an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine developed by its subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG), Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, caused an impressive antibody response in its Phase I/II trial (see story). In subjects who were given the second dose 28 days after the first one, the vaccine produced a response in 100% of the volunteers. If the subjects received a second dose on the 14th or 21st day, the vaccine caused a seroconversion rate of 97.6%. Sinopharm did not disclose the strength of the antibody responses.
Sinovac Biotech of Beijing reported its COVID-19 vaccine produced a seroconversion rate of above 90% in a China Phase I/II trial (see story). The trial enrolled 743 healthy volunteers, 143 in Phase I and 600 in Phase II. There were no severe adverse events reported in either trial. CoronaVac is made by chemically inactivating the virus, the traditional method for vaccine development, while most western COVID-19 vaccines are based on either DNA or RNA platforms. Sinovac intends to conduct a Phase III trial in partnership with Brazil's Instituto Butantan.
Clover Biopharma of Chengdu has tested the first subjects in a Phase I first-in-human study testing the company's COVID-19 S-Trimer subunit vaccine candidate (SCB-2019) (see story). The vaccine is based on Clover’s proprietary Trimer-Tag© vaccine technology platform. The company expects to release preliminary safety and immunogenicity results for the Phase I study in August 2020, and it has already begun planning for a global Phase IIb/III efficacy trial projected to start by year-end 2020.
Trials and Approvals
Suzhou Innovent Biologics (HK: 01801) announced its second approval to market a drug in China (see story). China's NMPA approved the launch of the company's Avastin biosimilar, Byvasda® (bevacizumab), to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer and metastatic colorectal cancer. Byvasda is a recombinant humanized anti-VEGF monoclonal antibody with an anti-angiogenesis mechanism. Innovent positioned Byvasda as a high quality, less expensive version of Avastin. In early 2020, Innovent out-licensed US-Canada commercial rights for the biosimilar to Coherus BioSciences.
Ascentage Pharma (HK: 6855) of Suzhou submitted an NDA to China's Center for Drug Evaluation for HQP135, its third-generation BCR-ABL inhibitor, as a treatment for leukemia (see story). The candidate is specifically designed to treat chronic myeloid leukemia (CP-CML) and accelerated phase CML (AP-CML) that has developed the T315I mutation, which is the most common drug-resistant mutation caused by BCR-ABL drugs such as Gleevec. The submission for HQP135 is the first NDA that Ascentage has submitted to regulators.