Deals and Financings
iCarbonX, the Shenzhen artificial intelligence/big data "omics" startup, completed a $155 million Series A funding that values the six-month-old company at $1 billion - biotech's first unicorn. The company is the brainchild of Dr. Jun Wang, who previously served as CEO of BGI, China's largest genomic sequencing company. Tencent Holdings (OTCPK:TCEHY), a China internet company, led the financing, and the two companies will establish a strategic relationship. In a big surprise, Dr. Wang disclosed that iCarbonX's first consumer application will be cosmetics: based on a person's skin sample, iCarbonX will recommend the most effective products. The first store will be opened this year, he said.
Shanghai's Hua Medicine closed a $50 million Series C funding round led by Harvest Investments of China. Hua's leading program is a 4th-generation glucokinase activator (GKA) for Type 2 diabetes that will finish China Phase II trials by mid-year and announce top-line results before the end of 2016. Hua, which describes itself as focused on first-in-class and best-in-class therapies for China and the global market, said the C round drew high levels of interest and was more than 3X-oversubscribed.
Yabao Pharma (SHA: 600351) of Shanghai partnered with Salus Pharma, a privately held New Jersey generic drug maker, to co-develop, make and commercialize high-barrier-to-entry generic drugs worldwide. Salus specializes in extended-release products. Yabao will own rights to specified Salus Pharma-developed products outside the US. Yabao will also manufacture those drugs for global markets, while Salus will retain the right to commercialize the products in the US. Financial terms were not disclosed. Yabao will be attending the ChinaBio® Partnering Forum, May 18-19 in Suzhou.
Venus Medtech, a Hangzhou cardiac device maker, bought several cardiac valve technologies from Transcatheter Technologies GmbH of Germany. The Transcatheter system allows the surgeon to reposition the valve once it is implanted, a unique feature. Using the technology, Venus will develop and market a third-gen valve system for use in China and the world. Venus' own transcatheter aortic valve is currently awaiting CFDA approval. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Immune Therapeutics (OTCQB:IMUN), a Florida biopharma, signed a binding Letter of Intent to acquire a Chimeric Super Antigen Receptor T cell (CAR-T) cocktail therapy developed in China. The company intends to acquire the technology from Super-T Cell Cancer Company, a newly formed corporation that is apparently associated with Immune's own Chief Science Officer, Fengpen Shan, PhD. Dr. Shan is Vice Director of the Institute of Immunology at China Medical University in Shenyang. Immune Therapeutics expects to develop the CAR-T technology for China use.
Beijing Strong Biotechnologies (BSBE) (SHE: 300406) recently signed a technology license granting Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT) rights to its clinical chemistry testing products, which BSBE currently manufactures in China. Initially, the agreement gives Abbott rights to 55 products in return for upfront and milestone payments, plus royalties on sales for a specified period. In addition, Abbott will have the right to add additional products over time. Although the agreement was signed in February, it was not widely publicized at the time. Financial details were not disclosed.
Trials and Approvals
BeiGene (NASDAQ:BGNE), a Beijing oncology company, reported positive initial data from a continuing Phase I trial of BGB-283 in patients with BRAF or KRAS/NRAS-mutated cancers. At the time of data cutoff, 29 pre-treated patients were available for analysis. There was one complete response from the 40 mg cohort, two partial responses in the 20 mg or 30 mg cohorts and 15 patients with stable disease that have sometimes extended over one year. BGB-283 is one of two drug candidates BeiGene has partnered with Merck KGaA, though it still holds China rights to the candidate.
Ascenta Pharmaceuticals, a Guangzhou oncology drug startup, presented preclinical results of its AKR1C3 drug at the recent American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in New Orleans. AKR1C3 is an enzyme that is up-regulated in many cancers, especially liver cancer. Ascenta's drug, AST-106, targets AKR1C3, using a prodrug approach to deliver cytotoxic agents directly to the tumor. Ascenta acquired Asian rights to the drug from Threshold Pharma (THLD) of San Francisco.
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