Deals and Financings
Grail, a US spinout from Illumina (ILMN) that is developing blood-based cancer detection tests, is considering a $500 million Hong Kong IPO (see story). Last year, Grail completed a $900 million Series B fundraising, the largest ever. In June, Grail merged with Cirina, a Hong Kong cancer diagnostics company, which was co-founded by Dennis Lo, DM, DPhil, an early scientific leader in the field of molecular diagnostics. Grail is considering Hong Kong for its IPO venue following new HKEX rules that allow companies to IPO even if they aren't profitable and to offer two classes of stock, one with voting rights (for the original owners) and one without.
Viela Bio, a brand new spinout from MedImmune, announced a $250 million Series A funding led by three China investors: Shanghai's 6 Dimensions Capital (an investment firm formed in 2017 by the merger of Frontline BioVentures and WuXi Healthcare Ventures), plus Hong Kong's Boyu Capital and Beijing's Hillhouse Capital. Viela will focus on inflammation and autoimmunity, based on an initial six molecules (three clinical-stage candidates and three preclinical molecules) donated by MedImmune.
CARsgen Therapeutics, a Shanghai CAR-T drug developer, will raise $60 million in a Pre-C financing round from existing and new investors. The company said it would use the funds to restructure and file for an "overseas" IPO in the near future. In addition, CARsgen will submit several Investigational New Drug applications for additional CAR-T therapeutics and continue next-generation CAR-T research. CARsgen already has an active clinical-stage CAR-T program, with five candidates in trials.
Cullgen, a US-Japan-China small-molecule drug startup, announced a Seed Financing of up to $15 million from GNI Group (TOKYO:2160). Cullgen plans to develop drugs based on its ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation technology, which the company says will address previously undruggable targets. GNI is headed by Ying Luo, PhD, the founder of Shanghai Genomics, a company that was acquired by GNI. GNI has operations in Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. Dr. Luo will serve as president and CEO of Cullgen, which will initially focus on oncology and expand into inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Shenzhen Hepalink (SHZ:2399) formed a JV with Aridis Pharma, a San Francisco area biopharma, to gain China approval for Aridis' fully human monoclonal antibody therapies (see story). The JV will be backed by a "significant," though undisclosed, capital commitment. It will develop two of Aridis' mAb clinical candidates, AR-301 and AR-101, for difficult-to-treat infections. To discover drugs, Aridis identifies subsets of patients who are not affected by a particular infectious disease, isolating and immortalizing the group's protective mAbs. Aridis uses them to produce therapeutic antibodies.
Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical, a major China medical device maker with operations in the US, has withdrawn its application to IPO on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (see story). The company did not meet the SSE's balance sheet criteria. Mindray de-listed from the New York exchange in 2016, taken private by its three top executives at a valuation of $3.2 billion. At least one source said Mindray would seek a post-IPO valuation of $15 billion. Mindray will look for another venue, which will probably be Shenzhen's Chi-Next exchange.
Trials and Approvals
Yisheng Biopharma, a Beijing immunological/vaccine company, was granted US Orphan Drug Designation for its lead oncology molecule, YS-ON-001, as a treatment for pancreatic cancer. It was the third ODD for YS-ON-001, following ODDs for pancreatic cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. According to Yisheng, YS-ON-001 works by affecting the tumor microenvironment. The company says the candidate produced "breakthrough" effects in preclinical tests, better than a PD-1 molecule, and synergistic effects in combination with the company's own PD-1 drug.
Alma Lasers, a subsidiary of Sisram Medical (HK:1696), received US FDA approval of a new laser-based hair removal device for the aesthetic market. The Soprano ICE Platinum combines three wavelengths into a single applicator, which offers better results, the company said. Sisram is a subsidiary of Fosun Pharma (OTCPK:FOSUY) (SH: 600196) (HK: 02196). Fosun bought Alma, an Israeli company, in 2012, formed Sisram around it and completed a $112 million Sisram IPO last year in Hong Kong.
China scientists have animal-tested nano-scaled robots that recognize a tumor and deliver a fatal payload, without affecting healthy tissue. Using "DNA origami," the researchers designed miniature robots (5,000 times smaller than a needle tip) that found the tumors and delivered enough payload to shrink, and sometimes eliminate, the cancers - without any observed negative side effects. The scientists from China's National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST) in Beijing published their results recently in Nature Biotechnology.
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