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Week in Review: Insilico Signs Six-Drug AI Discovery Deal with Sanofi Worth up to $1.2 Billion

publication date: Nov 12, 2022
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD

Deals and Financings

Insilico Medicine, a Hong Kong-New York City AI drug discovery company, signed a six-drug research collaboration with Sanofi that could be worth up to $1.2 billion (see story). Insilico will receive up to $21.5 million in upfront and target nomination fees for each of the six targets. It will also be eligible for milestone and royalty payments. Insilico will apply its end-to-end Pharma.AI platform to the Sanofi targets, including interdisciplinary drug discovery scientists who will advance lead therapeutic compounds up to candidate development stage. 

Wuhan Neurophth announced a $140 million agreement to use Cyagen’s AI platform to discover novel AAV vectors (see story). Cyagen is a Santa Clara, CA gene therapy CRO with offices in China and Japan that offers genetically modified rodent models. Neurophth is developing gene therapies for ophthalmology indications. The company’s lead drug recently started a Phase III trial for ND4-mediated Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (ND4-LHON) with plans to conduct trials of the drug in China and the US. 

Zenas BioPharma, a Boston-Shanghai biopharma, received $118 million in proceeds from Series B preferred shares (see story). A two-year old company, Zenas will use the capital for a global Phase III trial of its lead candidate, obexelimab, in patients with IgG4-related disease. The company also plans to advance other autoimmune disease programs into clinical development next year. In March 2021, Zenas broke cover with a portfolio of seven in-licensed immune and rare disease candidates. The B round was led by Enavate Sciences and included participation from a long list of new and existing investors. 

Shanghai XellSmart Biomedical closed a $27.6 million in Series A1 financing to develop low-cost stem cell therapies for major unmet needs including Parkinson's disease (see story). Founded in 2021, XellSmart has a 1,400-square-meter Shanghai R&D center and a 3,400-square-meter pilot production base in Suzhou under construction. Besides Parkingson’s, the company is developing stem cell therapies for retinopathy, brain trauma and cancer. The round was co-led by Qiming Venture, Lilly Asia Ventures, FIG and CSSD. Qiming and Lilly are previous investors. 

Harbour BioMed (HK: 02142) will use its antibody discovery platform to identify nucleic acid-based oncology immunotherapies for ModernaTX (NSDQ: MRNA), an RNA company (see story). Moderna will own an exclusive sub-licensable license to exploit a panel of sequences against multiple targets, derived from HBM’s proprietary heavy chain only antibody discovery platform. Moderna will be responsible for all development costs, while Nona Biosciences, an HBM subsidiary, will receive upfront and milestone payments, plus royalties. HBM is headquartered in Boston with discovery operations in Rotterdam and labs in Suzhou. 

Company News

Boston’s EQRx (NSDQ: EQRX) backed off its promise to bring innovative medicines to the US market at a 50%-70% discount from big pharma prices (see story). Now, the company plans to seek “market prices” for two drugs in-licensed from China companies and will drop development of an indication for a third drug. The abrupt change follows the FDA’s policy requiring companies to conduct US Phase III trials of new drugs rather than basing NDAs completely on China data. More Phase III trials means higher development costs, destroying EQRx’s business plan. 

Trials and Approvals

Shanghai Asieris Pharma (SHA: 688176) dosed the first patient in a China Phase III of Hexvix®, a contrast product used to diagnose bladder cancer (see story). Asieris acquired China-Taiwan rights to the candidate from Oslo’s Photocure ASA in early 2021. Hexvix is used for cystoscopic detection of bladder cancer, including papillary tumors and carcinoma in situ (CIS). When used with BLC®, the fluorescence from tumor tissue appears bright pink, while normal tissue remains dark blue. Asieris focuses on developing innovative drugs for genitourinary tumors and related diseases. 

Shanghai NovoCodex Biopharm started a China Phase 1 trial of an anti-CD70 ADC in patients with advanced solid tumors (see story). NovoCodex, a majority owned subsidiary of Zhejiang Medicine (SHA: 600216), acquired China rights to the candidate, ARX305, from San Diego’s Ambrx (NYSE: AMAM) in 2019, its second in-licensing from the company. According to Ambrx, ARX305 is the only anti-CD70 ADC in active development that targets CD70, a protein overexpressed in a broad range of solid and hematologic tumors. 

Sirnaomics (HK: 2257), a Suzhou-Maryland RNAi company, has dosed the first patient in a Phase I clinical study of its lead siRNA (small interfering RNA) candidate as a fat reduction agent in adults undergoing abdominoplasty (see story). STP705 is already being tested as a therapy for cholangiocarcinoma, non-melanoma skin cancer and hypertrophic scar. Sirnaomics said the dose setting trial will examine STP705 for its fat reduction and subcutaneous tissue remodeling effects, pointing out that existing therapies require multiple sessions to produce only mild effects. 

YS Biopharma has been approved to test its COVID-19 vaccine in the US as a booster to other vaccine regimens (see story). The company’s PIKA COVID-19 vaccine consists of a PIKA adjuvant and a stable trimeric form of the recombinant SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein. YS Biopharma, formerly known as Yisheng Bio, is a Beijing vaccine company with operations in Singapore, the US and the United Arab Emirates. Two months ago, the company announced plans to be acquired by a US-listed SPAC at a value of $834 million. 

Disclosure: none. 


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