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Week in Review: Agilent Pays $250 Million to Acquire ACEA and its Cell Therapy Analyzer

publication date: Sep 29, 2018
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD

Deals and Financings

ACEA Biosciences, a San Diego company with R&D and manufacturing facilities in Hangzhzou, will be acquired by Agilent (NYSE: A) for $250 million in cash (see story). ACEA has developed the xCELLigence® cell therapy analysis device intended for academic and biopharma researchers. The device is used in immuno-oncology, pre-clinical drug discovery and basic academic research. In 2015, ACEA raised $30 million from China investors Qiming and Lilly Asia Ventures. Agilent develops and sells laboratory equipment.  

Zhejiang Anglikang Pharmaceutical, headquartered in Shengzhou, has been approved to stage an $87 million IPO on the Shenzhen SME (small- and medium-sized enterprise) Exchange (see story). The company is mainly known as a cephalosporin manufacturer with an annual capacity of 1500 tons. It also makes angiography and gastrointestinal drugs. Founded in 1994, Anglikang produces finished drugs, APIs and empty gelatin capsules and has annual revenues of over $150 million.  

CSPC Pharmaceutical (HK: 1093) in-licensed China rights to an approved cancer treatment, Copitra™, from Verastem (NSDQ: VSTM), a Boston area biotech (see story). Copitra (duvelisib) is an oral inhibitor of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), and the first approved dual inhibitor of PI3K-delta and PI3K-gamma. In the US, Copitra has been approved as a third-line treatment for several leukemia/lymphoma indications. CSPC will make a $15 million upfront payment and pay an additional $30 million in development milestones, plus sales milestones and royalties.  

Cellular Biomedicine (NSDQ: CBMG) will provide China manufacturing services for a Novartis (NYSE: NVS) CAR-T cell therapy, Kymriah® (see story). Novartis will buy $40 million of CBMG stock, while CBMG will manufacture the individual doses of the therapy at a profit and be paid royalties. Novartis will retain China marketing rights and also receive rights to some CBMG technologies for CAR-T manufacturing. Kymriah, which was approved in the US one year ago to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is not yet approved for use in China.  

Bellen Chemistry, a Beijing CRO/CMO, raised "hundreds of millions in RMB" ($30 million plus) in a C financing round (see story). The company offers chemical synthesis for chemical drugs based on its large library of heterocycles. Founded in 2007, Bellen has its headquarters and a research lab in Beijing, a research center in Shanghai, and a manufacturing base in Shandong province. The round was led by Apricot Capital, CMB and Qianhai Fund of Funds. One year ago, Bellen completed a $38 million B financing intended mainly for its manufacturing operations. 

Jinzhou Ahon Pharma, a subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharma (HK: 02196: SHA: 600196), in-licensed greater China rights to a candidate for an ischemic stroke treatment from DiaMedica Therapeutics (TSX: DMA; OTCQB: DMCAF) of Minneapolis in a $32.5 million agreement (see story). DM199 (synthetic KLK1 protein) can be administered up to 24 hours after the onset of a stroke, longer than the 3 to 4.5 hours of tPA, the current standard of care. Previously, Fosun made an equity investment in DiaMedica. Ahon specializes in cardiovascular and CNS drugs.  

WuXi Biologics (HK: 2269) formed a collaboration with I-Mab Biopharma to develop three bi-specific antibodies, using WuXi's proprietary WuXiBody™ Platform to discover, develop and commercialize the three antibodies (see story). I-Mab will make an unspecified upfront payment to WuXi plus milestones and royalties. WuXi Biologics will be I-Mab's exclusive partner to develop and manufacture the bispecifics. According to WuXi, I-Mab is the first company to use the WuXiBody platform, which it believes improves the development and manufacturing of bi-specifics.

Flow Pharma, a San Francisco Bay Area biotech, formed a China JV with Button Capital to conduct China clinical trials of its therapeutic cancer vaccines (see story). Button is a Silicon Valley-based investor that supports companies around the globe. Flow uses artificial intelligence to select neoantigen peptide targets on cancer cells or virus-infected cells, which are then targeted by the patient's own immune system. The peptides are loaded into the FlowVax synthetic therapeutic vaccine platform. The company's initial product is a pre-clinical HPV vaccine to treat cervical cancer.  

Everest Medicines II, a US-China in-licensing company, acquired China and Southeast Asia rights to a VenatoRx treatment for drug-resistant infections (see story). The candidate, a cefepime/VNRX-5133 combination, is ready to start global Phase III trials. Founded in 2017 by C-Bridge Capital, Everest is described as a platform for bringing new drugs to China. Previously, Everest acquired China rights to four candidates, including a Tetraphase (NSDQ: TTPH) antibiotic for serious multi-drug resistant infections. Everest was funded with an initial $50 million from C-Bridge Capital. 

Disclosure: none.


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