Week In Review: Terns Raises $80 Million For China, Global Development Of Drugs Licensed From Lilly

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Includes: LLY
by: ChinaBio Today

Deals and Financings

Terns Pharma, a California-Shanghai newco, closed an $80 million Series B financing to support its targeted, oral, small-molecule drugs aimed at NASH and cancer. In April, Terns announced it had in-licensed global rights to three small molecule candidates from Lilly (NYSE:LLY), which also funded the company's $30 million A round. The new financing was led by Vivo Capital and OrbiMed, and joined by Decheng Capital and Lilly Asia Ventures.

Insight Capital, a Beijing venture firm, closed its third fund with $72 million in new capital. The new fund will focus on early stage healthcare investments, according to a company announcement. The company invests in medical equipment, healthcare services and pharmaceutical R&D. The third fund brings Insight's total assets under management to $144 million. Its limited partners include government guidance funds, founders of pharmaceutical companies and domestic fund-of-funds.

Fullerton Healthcare, a Singapore company, invested $43 million into Shanghai Redleaf International Women's & Children's Hospital, its first in China's specialty hospitals sector. Together, Fullerton and Redleaf will invest an additional $29 million to set up a chain of Shanghai primary care clinics, which will provide GP, specialist outpatient, health screening and other services. One year ago, Fullerton raised $121 million in a funding led by Ping An Insurance, with plans to open 100 clinics in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

Biothus of Guangdong raised $26 million in a new funding round to add to its $114 million in promised backing. Within five years, the company plans to build a portfolio of eight biopharma candidates, including six innovative drugs from its own discovery efforts and two other molecules. In July, Biothus set up a research facility in the High-tech Zone of Guangdong Province's Zhuhai City. The investors included an unnamed Zhuhai government-owned investment firm, Highlight Capital (a China healthcare focused firm), and Zhuhai Huajin Assets.

Suzhou's Innovent Biologics (HK: 1801) climbed 19% higher in its first day of trading on the Hong Kong Exchange, following its IPO last week. The positive reception is the first time investors have driven one of Hong Kong's pre-revenue biopharma IPOs higher in open market trading. Although the anticipation for the pre-revenue channel was very high, the previous three listings closed their first sessions more of less unchanged -- and then moved lower in subsequent days, causing investors to wonder if Hong Kong's channel for young biopharmas is a viable vehicle. Innovent's performance creates hope that it is.

WuXi AppTec (SHA: 603259) will form Faxian Therapeutics with Schrödinger, a New York City company that offers drug discovery using advanced computational methods. WuXi will add its lead optimization CRO services to advance molecules discovered by Schrödinger's precision molecular design platforms. Faxian, which will presumably own and develop the candidates, will concentrate on novel insights into the chemistry and biology of a target and indication.

GeneQuantum Healthcare of Suzhou formed a strategic cooperation with Beijing's Biocytogen to develop next-gen bioconjugates for cancer immunotherapy. GeneQuantum will combine its bio-conjugation platform with Biocytogen's customized, gene-edited animal models to evaluate the efficacy of candidates. The goal of the two companies will be to develop a series novel bioconjugates for tumor immunotherapy and precision medicine.

Trials and Approvals

I-Mab Biopharma of Shanghai reported the China National Medical Products Administration approved its IND for TJ107 (HyLeukin®), a novel long-acting recombinant human interleukin-7 (rhIL-7). I-Mab in-licensed China rights to the immunotherapy in a $548 million agreement late last year from South Korea's Genexine (KOSDAQ: 095700). To create the long-term effect, Genexine fuses Interleukin-7 with its own hybrid Fc platform. I-Mab will test HyLeukin in patients with chemotherapy-induced lymphopenia and cancer.

Bio-Thera Solutions of Guangzhou has started a China Phase III trial of its HER2 antibody-drug conjugate (BAT8001) in patients with HER-2 positive metastatic breast cancer (see story). The trial will compare BAT8001 to a lapatinib-capecitabine combination, a second-line standard of care for metastatic breast cancer. Bio-Thera is testing BAT8001 in several tumor types that overexpress HER2, especially breast and gastric cancer. The company has five candidates in late-stage clinical trials and a China NDA in review for a Humira biosimilar.

Adagene, a Suzhou biopharma, has dosed the first patient in a US Phase I trial of its lead candidate, ADG-106, a fully human mAb targeting a novel epitope of CD137 (see story). At the same time, Adagene announced that China has approved an IND for ADG-106. The Phase I trial will test the drug as a single agent in patients with solid tumors and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. ADG-106 is the first Adagene candidate to begin clinical trials. In March of this year, Adagene raised $50 million in a Series C round to develop six oncology projects as they near clinical trials.

Ark Biosciences, a Shanghai-Suzhou clinical-stage biotech, will release unblinded clinical efficacy results from a global trial of ziresovir, a treatment for RSV in hospitalized infants (see story). The results, which come from Part 1 of a global Phase II proof-of-concept ziresovir trial, will be presented at two scientific meetings over the next two weeks. Ark in-licensed global rights to the candidate from Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) in 2014.

Disclosure: None.