Deals and Financings
WuXi AppTec, China's largest CRO/CMO, and Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ:JUNO) of Seattle have formed a 50-50 joint venture to bring Juno's promising immuno-oncology drugs to China. The new company, JW Biotechnology, will be based in Shanghai and will eventually own China rights to Juno's products, once certain unspecified conditions are met. Juno will be paid an upfront payment in equity (presumably JV equity), plus milestone payments and royalties on sales. WuXi will use its CRO capabilities to pursue China approval of the products. Through its venture arm, WuXi has already invested in Juno.
Sorrento Therapeutics (NASDAQ:SRNE) of San Diego raised $150 million in a private placement that was led by Ally Bridge Group, a China-US life science private equity investor. The transaction also involved Sorrento's South Korean partner, Yuhan (KS: 000100), and several institutional investors. Sorrento is a clinical-stage company that develops novel immunotherapies for cancer and autoimmune/inflammation. In August 2015, Sorrento in-licensed four monoclonal antibodies from China's Mabtech, consisting of two biobetters and two biosimilars.
Ally Bridge Group of Hong Kong and San Francisco participated in the Series B funding of LinkDoc Technology, a Beijing company that is gathering medical records from cancer patients. Using the records, LincDoc will offer doctors evidence-based best practices for personalized medicine, and it will allow pharmaceutical companies to access the database for drug development and marketing. Financial details were not disclosed.
Essex Bio (HK: 1061) of Zhuhai partnered with Abpro, a Massachusetts antibody discovery company, to co-develop several monoclonal antibodies in immuno-oncology and ophthalmology. Essex made a $3.5 million equity investment in Abpro plus an undisclosed amount from its affiliates. Essex will have rights to the drug candidates in China, while Abpro will retain ex-China rights, with cross-royalties from each region.
The Institut Pasteur of Shanghai at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IPS-CAS) joined up with London's MRC Technology to speed China-discovered antibodies into approved drugs. The two entities co-founded the IPS-MRCT Joint Center for Therapeutic Antibodies, which will develop therapeutic antibodies using research done at IPS-CAS. Initially, the new Center will develop antibodies against two targets for an infectious disease and an inflammatory disorder. MRC will add its tech transfer experience to the R&D ability of IPS-CAS.
BioChain, a US-China diagnostics/genomics tools company, in-licensed China rights to a novel blood-based lung cancer diagnostic test from Epigenomics of Germany. BioChain will conduct China clinical trials for approval of the test in China and then commercialize it. In 2013, BioChain and Epigenomics entered a similar agreement for Epigenomics' Septin9-based colorectal cancer blood-test, which BioChain launched in 2015.
Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) has ended plans to transfer its online pharmacy operations into Alibaba Health Information Technology (Ali Health) (HK: 0241). It said the two companies could not come to terms before time ran out to finalize the deal, and it blamed the failure on continuing revisions in China's online pharmacy regulations. When Alibaba announced the transaction one year ago, it gave the deal a value of $2.5 billion. Now, as a backup plan, Alibaba will transfer its online health foods and supplements business from Tmall, Alibaba's major online sales portal, to Ali Health.
Hanmi Pharma (KS: 128940) of South Korea will build a second China manufacturing facility, which will be located in the northeast city of Yantai. The company recently paid $10 million for 200,000 square meters of land in the Yantai Economic and Technological Development Zone, and it intends to invest $200 million over the next ten years to increase its chemical and biological drug production facilities there. Eventually, the company will also add an R&D operation in Yantai. In 2015, Hanmi signed deals for up to $6.5 billion for global rights to its development-stage drugs.
Trials and Approvals
Beijing's CANbridge Life Sciences filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the Taiwan FDA for a Phase I/II trial of a novel brain cancer immunotherapy. CAN-008, an anti-TNF drug, will be administered along with temozolomide (TMZ), during and after radiation therapy, in patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). In 2015, CANbridge in-licensed China rights to the drug from Germany's Apogenix. The drug is a fully-human fusion protein designed to inhibit the CD95 ligand and restore the immune response against tumors.