Week In Review: China Pharma Starts New Year With Record Deals

by: ChinaBio Today

Deals and Financings

Jiangsu Hansoh Pharma is planning to raise over $3 billion in an IPO on the Hong Kong market, which would be record amount for a pharma IPO in Hong Kong. One month ago, it was reported that Hansoh would seek $1.5 billion in an initial offering, implying that the reports are partly rumor. The company may complete a filing for the transaction as early as March, which will shed more light on Hansoh and its IPO. The actual transaction is scheduled for Q3 of this year.

Simcere Pharma, a Nanjing company that makes branded generic and innovative drugs, expects to stage a $1 billion IPO on the Hong Kong exchange. The company was taken private from the NASDAQ exchange two years ago at a valuation of $495 million. Because Simcere has not yet released details of its offering, its present valuation is not known. The Hong Kong Exchange requires a listing company to offer at least 25% of its shares in an IPO, which puts Simcere's maximum valuation at $4 billion.

Zai Lab, a Shanghai innovative biopharma, raised more than $100 million in a Series B financing from a group of healthcare investors. The investment was led by Advantech Capital and included OrbiMed. Existing investors Qiming Ventures, Sequoia Capital China, and TF Capital all participated. Eighteen months ago, Zai Lab completed a $30 million A round. In two short years of operation, Zai has in-licensed four drug candidates that have begun or are close to clinical trials. In late 2015, Zai started its own drug discovery operations in Shanghai.

BioAtla LLC, a San Diego-Beijing biotech, and Beijing Sinobioway Group have selected the first BioAtla product programs for development in their collaboration. As a result, BioAtla expects to receive $70 million in program payments and equity investments from Sinobioway over the next twelve months. BioAtla focuses on developing Conditionally Active Biologic antibody therapeutics. In May 2015, BioAtla announced a partnership to develop and commercialize CAB antibodies and other CAB-based therapeutics in Greater China, though Sinobioway was not named at that time.

Dalian Wanda Group, a China conglomerate, announced a $2.3 billion investment in three China hospitals. The hospitals will be managed by Britain's International Hospitals Group (IHG), assuring they will conform to international standards. The hospitals, which will be built in Shanghai, Chengdu and Qingdao, will have a total of 1,700 beds. Two more hospitals, one each in Beijing and Guangzhou, are in the planning stage. Wanda's $2.3 billion is the largest single private investment in China hospitals to date.

ASLAN Pharma, a Singapore biotech, signed a licensing agreement for ASLAN003 that includes oncology indications. In 2012, ASLAN obtained global rights from Spanish pharma Almirall (OTC:LBTSF) to ASLAN003 as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Now, ASLAN will hold global rights to all non-topical, non-dermatological indications for ASLAN003.

Taipei Medical University has licensed Asian rights to a cancer drug candidate developed by Lixte Biotech (OTCQB:LIXT) of New York state (see story). TMU will conduct a clinical trial of Lixte's LB-100 in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in compliance with Taiwanese and US requirements. TMU agreed to pay milestones and royalties as part of the agreement.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) in-licensed ex-China rights to immune-modulating agents from a Sino Biopharma (OTCPK:SBMFF) subsidiary, which it intends to use as part of a regimen for hepatitis B (see story). Recently, J&J acquired Novira Therapeutics, a privately held US biopharma whose lead drug treats HBV. J&J plans to combine Novira's NVR 3-778, an oral small molecule direct acting antiviral that inhibits the HBV capsid protein, and Sino Biopharma's immune system adjuvant. The company hopes the combination will cure HBV, as opposed to current products that require life-long treatment.

ChemPartner, the CRO component of China-US ShangPharma, has added peptide chemistry to its list of CRO services. In addition, ShangPharma has made a seed investment in Circle Pharma, a two-year old novel drug company focused on discovering novel peptide-based therapeutics. Circle will move its operations to ChemPartner's South San Francisco facility and collaborate with ChemPartner, though it will remain a separate entity. The size of ShangPharma's investment in Circle was not disclosed.

Nuance Biotech of Shanghai acquired an option from Oxford's Celleron Therapeutics for rights to two Celleron clinical-stage cancer treatments in Greater China and South Africa. The two companies will conduct clinical trials of the Celleron assets in Oxford, China and South Africa. Nuance will make upfront, development and regulatory milestone payments to Celleron, and it will be responsible for all development and commercialization expenses in its territories.

CANbridge Life Sciences, a Beijing biopharma, successfully completed a biomarker study of CD95 ligand expression in patients with brain cancer, triggering a CANbridge milestone payment to Germany's Apogenix. In July 2015, CANbridge in-licensed China rights from Apogenix to APG101, a brain cancer treatment. APG101 targets the CD95 ligand to restore immune system function. In addition, CANbridge acquired Taiwan rights to the drug, where the biomarker test took place. CANbridge originally in-licensed rights to the drug in mainland China, South Korea and Macau.

Sagent Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SGNT), a US company specializing in injectible drugs, will sell its Sagent (China) Pharmaceuticals subsidiary, booking a loss of as much as $50 million (see story). In 2013, Sagent took its China JV in-house, paying $25 million to partner Chegdu Kanghong Pharma for its 50% stake (see story). In November, during the company's 2015 Q3 earnings call, Sagent said the China facility was running at a net loss of $1 million per month. Fixing the problem, Sagent declared, would cost too much and take too long.

Trials and Approvals

Suzhou Connect Biopharma reported positive data from a Phase Ib trial of its lead clinical candidate, CBP-307, a novel immune system modulator that Connect is developing as a treatment for autoimmune diseases. The double-blind study showed the drug was well-tolerated and produced a significant reduction in immune activity. CBP-307 is a second generation selective sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 1 (S1P1) modulator. Connect expects it will show improved safety over first generation S1P1 drugs.

Yisheng Biopharma, a Beijing-headquartered vaccine company, announced positive results from a Phase I trial of its therapeutic PIKA-adjuvant rabies vaccine. The Yisheng product was well tolerated and caused a faster seroconversion rate than the standard rabies vaccine control. The PIKA adjuvant uses a novel double-strand RNA analog (PIKA), which acts as a toll-like receptor-3 (TLR-3) agonist to activate an innate immune response. Yisheng's vaccine requires only three injections in seven days, as opposed to the usual regimen of four shots over 14 days.

Sinovac Biotech (NASDAQ:SVA) of Beijing has received CFDA approval of its vaccine for Enterovirus 71 or hand-foot-mouth disease (see story). The company said the vaccine would target the private-pay market initially for children aged 6-35 months, with each child requiring two doses. The EV71 vaccine is the first innovative vaccine developed by Sinovac. It plans additional clinical tests with the goal of broadening the market for the vaccine.


WuXi AppTec Co., a China-US CRO/CMO, has once again upped its commitment to biologics services by announcing it will build a $120 million integrated biologics center at the company's Shanghai headquarters. The state-of-the-art facility will house 800 scientists and is expected to become operational in 2017. It will provide integrated services from ideas to the clinic for biologics discovery, development and clinical manufacturing.

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