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Week in Review: Sino Biopharm Acquires F-Star for $161 Million after US Approval

publication date: Mar 11, 2023
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD

Deals and Financings

Sino Biopharm (HK: 1177) was approved to close its $161 million all-cash acquisition of F-Star (NSDQ: FSTX), a Cambridge, UK company that develops bispecific antibodies (see story). The purchase didn't look like would happen after it was held up for nine months by the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which aims to slow China’s acquisition of advanced US technologies. F-Star, which has a NASDAQ listing and a US subsidiary in Cambridge, MA, develops bispecific drugs for immunotherapies using tetravalent (2+2) bispecific antibodies. 

Allorion Therapeutics, a Guangzhou-Boston biotech, completed a $50 million Series B financing to advance its next-gen precision medicines for oncology and autoimmune diseases (see story). The company said it would use the proceeds to fund Phase I/II clinical trials in both China and the US for its two lead molecules and identify clinical candidates for additional programs. The B round was co-led by INCE Capital and Qiming Venture Partners, with participation from TF Capital, Long River Investment, 3SBio, Octagon Capital and Elikon Venture. Since its 2020 start, Allorion has raised over $100 million. 

Rinua Gene, a Suzhou startup, closed a Pre-A+ funding worth $14.5 million to develop mRNA drugs (see story). The company has built a data-based technology platform focused on cutting-edge delivery and efficient production that is led by mRNA drug development. Rinua Gene says it has advanced multiple products to the IND approval stage from its three technology platforms: linear mRNA, cyclic mRNA and novel LNP-targeted delivery. Using these platforms, the company will conduct R&D of preventive vaccines for infectious diseases, tumor-related therapeutic vaccines and protein replacement products. The round was led by the Dechuan Medical Fund. 

Trials and Approvals

Harbour BioMed (HK: 02142) announced positive results from a China Phase III trial of its anti-FcRn mAb in patients with myasthenia gravis (see story). The candidate is an anti-FcRn monoclonal antibody that accelerates the degradation of autoantibodies to treat autoimmune diseases. In 2017, Harbour acquired China rights to batoclimab and one other candidate from Korea’s HanAll Biopharma for $81 million. Late last year, the company out-licensed the autoimmune therapy to CSPC NBP Pharma in a deal worth up to $140 million plus royalties, including $21 million upfront. NBP will be responsible for China commercialization. 

San Diego’s Ambrx Biopharma (NYSE: AMAM) reported that its anti-HER2 ADC showed better progression free survival in an interim review of China Phase III trial data than the control (see story). The trial was conducted by NovoCodex Biopharma, a Shaoxing subsidiary of Zhejiang Pharma, which in-licensed rights to the drug in 2013. NovoCodex is testing ARX788 for breast cancer, gastric/GEJ cancer and other solid tumors. Ambrx continues to hold ex-China rights to the drug, but in a recent realignment of its portfolio, Ambrx did not showcase ARX788, assigning the candidate to “Partnered Products” rather than “Prioritized.” 

AusperBio, a Hangzhou-Boston biopharma, started a Phase I trial in New Zealand of its novel therapy for chronic hepatitis B (see story). AHB-137 is a pan-genotypic antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) designed to target all HBV RNA. The company believes AHB-137 has the potential to be a best-in-class therapy. The first cohort of the trial, which enrolled adult healthy volunteers and chronic hepatitis B patients, did not report any major safety issues. AusperBio is dedicated to finding best-in-class therapeutics for HBV infections and to become a world leader in antiviral therapeutics. 

Shanghai’s JW Therapeutics (HKEX: 2126), a cell immunotherapy company, began a clinical trial of its lead CD19 CAR-T drug, Carteyva® (relmacabtagene autoleucel injection), as a first-line treatment for high-risk large B-cell lymphoma (see story). Carteyva® is already approved as a second- and third-line treatment for follicular lymphoma. It is in trials for four additional indications. JW is a joint venture formed by Seattle's Juno Therapeutics, a cell therapy biotech, and WuXi AppTec, a China CRDMO. Juno, now a Bristol-Myers company, used its CAR-T cell process platform to develop relma-cel. 

Ractigen Therapeutics, a Nantong RNAa company, was granted Orphan Drug Designation in the US for its novel siRNA candidate as a therapy for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (see story). RAG-17 is designed to target and knockdown the expression of SOD1 in patients with pathogenic mutations known to cause ALS. The siRNA candidate is conjugated to an accessory oligonucleotide, which enables potent activity in CNS tissue, according to Ractigen. In several preclinical studies, RAG-17 showed significantly higher potency in ALS disease models than competing compounds. 

Disclosure: none. 



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