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Week in Review: Vivo Raises $600 Million in First Tranche of China PE Fund
Deals and Financings
Vivo Capital, a US-China healthcare investor, held its first closing of a yuan-denominated private equity fund at $600 million, with a target of bringing the fund to $1.5 billion (see story). In 2019, Vivo closed its $1.3 billion ninth fund, bringing assets under management to $6.4 billion. Although investment firms are announcing fewer deals with China biopharma companies in 2022, major life science investors are continuing to raise capital for new funds. Besides Vivo, OrbiMed announced three new funds one month ago with $4.75 billion of capital, including $1.1 billion for OrbiMed Asia V.
ProfoundBio, a Suzhou-Seattle ADC and immunotherapy company, closed a $70 million Series A+ financing round led by Sequoia China (see story). Profound announced itself one year ago with $58 million in initial capital from China investors and a team that previously worked at SeaGen, a Seattle oncology company. The company is developing novel Antibody Drug Conjugates and T-Cell Engagers to address cancer. Profound will use the proceeds to advance its two lead ADC candidates into Phase I clinical trials. The company’s earlier investors -- Lilly Asia Venture, Oriza, Chang'an Capital, LYFE Capital, and K2VC – also participated in the A+ round.
NuProbe Global, with operations in Houston and Shanghai, closed a $50 million funding from China Investors for its genomics and molecular diagnostics business (see story). The company aims to offer the best genomics information to clinicians at a reasonable price. It will use the funds to expand commercial operations, accelerate clinical studies and regulatory submissions for IVD products, and develop new genomics and molecular diagnostics technologies. In 2020, NuProbe merged with CarrierGene Biotech, a Suzhou company developing reproductive diagnostic tests. The latest funding round was co-led by AstraZeneca-CICC Fund, CR-CP Life Science Fund and Panlin Capital.
SciNeuro Pharma, a Shanghai CNS company, acquired global rights to Lp-PLA2 inhibitors for neurodegenerative diseases from GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) (see story). In clinical trials, the inhibitors have shown potential to improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s Disease patients. SciNeuro will have worldwide rights to the inhibitors and will advance them through clinical proof of concept, at which point GSK has the right to reclaim global rights to the candidate (ex-China). Lp-PLA2 inhibitors are being developed to reduce inflammation in coronary heart diseases, Alzheimer's and diabetic macular edema. GSK's LpPLA2 inhibitor is in a Phase III trial for coronary heart disease.
Sihuan Pharma (HK: 0460) and CTTQ-Akeso (Shanghai) Biomed will cooperate to test Sihuan’s AXL inhibitor paired with CTTQ-Akeso’s anti-PD-1 in patients with solid tumors (see story). Xuanzhu Biopharm, the novel drug subsidiary of Sihuan, has already been approved to start China trials of its AXL inhibitor in advanced solid tumors and hematological malignancies. CTTQ-Akeso was approved to launch its PD-1 (penpulimab), a product co-developed by Sino Bio and Akeso, as a third-line therapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The companies plan to test the combination in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.
Trials and Approvals
Shanghai Hansoh Pharma (HK: 3692) published positive results from a China Phase III trial of its third-gen EGFR-TKI inhibitor in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (see story). Hansoh’s Amelie® (aumolertinib mesylate tablets) was administered as a first-line therapy for NSCLC. It significantly out-performed AstraZeneca’s Iressa (gefitinib), especially among patients with brain metastases. Hansoh, which developed Amelie in-house, said it was the first publication of clinical data from a China-originated third-generation EGFR-TKI in the official ASCO journal. Hanson out-licensed ex-China rights for the drug to EQRx.
Insilico Medicine, a Hong Kong company with an AI-based drug development program, was approved to start China trials of its novel therapy for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) (see story). The company said the candidate is a first-in-class small molecule inhibitor with novel targets and novel chemical structures to treat IPF. It was discovered and designed using Insilico’s proprietary end-to-end AI platform, Pharma.AI. Insilico said its AI systems first discovered that drug and proceeded to a clinical trial in 30 months at a much lower cost than traditional systems.
Nanjing IASO Bio reported China accepted its IND for a BCMA CAR-T therapy, equecabtagene autoleucel, in patients with an autoimmune disease, Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder (NMOSD) (see story). NMOSD is a demyelination disorder of the central nervous system that usually occurs in young and middle-aged people. IASO’s IND, which is one of the first for use of a CAR-T in inflammatory indications, is based on a China investigator-led test in NMOSD patients. The China acceptance is the world's first IND application for use of a CAR-T in NMOSD.
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