Deals and Financings
Tianjin Tasly Pharma (SHA: 600535) is in talks to IPO its biopharma division in Hong Kong later this year with the goal of raising $1 billion. If it happens, the IPO will probably be Hong Kong's largest biopharma IPO this year. Tasly, known for its TCM offerings, has been actively using M&A to expand into biologics. It has also invested in C-Bridge Capital's funds and sometimes adds, independently, to C-Bridge deals. One year ago, C-Bridge and Tasly joined to invest $150 million in two China biotechs, merging them as part of the transaction.
Hua Medicine of Shanghai is planning a $400 million IPO in Hong Kong to fund the company's diabetes drug, dorzagliatin, a novel oral diabetes 2 treatment. In January of this year, Hua's founder and CEO, Chen Li, said Hua would need $200 million over the next three years to complete development and commercialize the drug. Hua expects to be approved to market dorzagliatin in China during 2020. Like several other biopharmas, Hua will take advantage of new Hong Kong Exchange rules that allow not-yet-profitable biopharmas to list on the exchange.
JW Therapeutics of Shanghai closed an impressive $90 million Series A financing with the goal of bringing best-in-class immunotherapies to China. JW is a joint venture formed by Seattle's Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ:JUNO), an important cell therapy biotech, and WuXi AppTec, the China CRO/CMO. The JV will combine Juno's CAR-T therapies with WuXi's China development and manufacturing expertise. Along with the financing, JW reported the CFDA has accepted its IND submission for JWCAR029, a CD19 CAR-T therapy that will be tested in B-cell malignancies.
23Mofang of Chengdu raised $15.8 million in venture financing in a round led by Matrix Partners China, a joint venture fund formed by Matrix Partners of the US and China partners. Founded in 2015, 23Mofang provides saliva-based genetic testing for individuals, with six separate testing services including health risks, rare genetic diseases and drug reactions. It claims to have completed 150,000 tests so far. Maximum cost for the 23Mofang test is $158. Its biochip, which was co-developed with Thermo Fisher Scientific, tests for as many as 300 medical conditions.
Oxford Vacmedix, a UK-Changzhou biopharma, closed a $12.5 million Series A funding from South Korean and China investors to develop therapeutic cancer vaccines. OVM's two lead vaccines target cervical cancer and solid tumors, respectively, by stimulating CD4 and CD8 responses. The company expects the money will be enough to complete pre-clinical development of the vaccines and begin Phase I trials. Investors in the funding were Cancer ROP, a South Korea diagnostics company, and existing shareholders in China, who also supported the company's Changzhou facility.
MicuRx Pharma, a San Francisco-Shanghai anti-infective company, announced it will receive up to $5.2 million in non-dilutive financing from a global partnership: Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Accelerator (CARB-X). MicuRx will use the money to produce an IND and then conduct Phase I trials of MRX-8, a novel polymyxin antibiotic designed to treat multi-drug resistant Gram-negative infections. In preclinical tests, MRX-8 was effective with a lower incidence of the side effects caused by other products in the class.
Adagene, a Suzhou antibody discovery company, formed a strategic collaboration with WuXi Biologics (OTCPK:WXXWY) (HK: 2269) giving WuXi responsibility for process development and manufacturing of Adagene products. Adagene has six molecules in pre-clinical development for oncology indications. WuXi will manufacture clinical trial supplies of the candidates. Adagene, which describes itself as focused on difficult antigens, is developing a portfolio of mono-specific and bi-specific antibodies. It also offers discovery partnerships with other biopharmas.
Trials and Approvals
TaiMed Biologics (TWO: 4147) of Taiwan received US marketing approval for a novel HIV-1 treatment aimed at multi-drug-resistant patients. China's WuXi Biologics (HK: 2269) manufactures Trogarzo (ibalizumab) for TaiMed, and Montreal's Theratechnologies (OTCPK:THERF) (TSX: TH) owns US rights to the drug. Trogarzo, with its unique mechanism, is the first new HIV treatment in ten years. The drug will given as a second-line treatment to patients who are failing normal antiretroviral treatments. Trogarzo is administered by injection on a bi-weekly schedule. The wholesale price is said to be $118,000, presumably for a year.
Hutchison China MediTech (Chi-Med) (NASDAQ:HCM) has started a China Phase Ib/II proof-of-concept study of epitinib in glioblastoma patients with epidermal growth factor receptor gene amplification. Epitinib is a selective oral EGFR inhibitor that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. It is also expected to start a Phase III trial this year in patients with non-small cell lung cancer who have brain metastases. Chi-Med says glioblastoma is a primary brain cancer with high levels of EGFR gene amplification.
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