Deals and Financings
Suzhou's CStone Pharma has filed for a Hong Kong IPO. Founded in 2015, CStone has quickly built a portfolio of 14 oncology candidates. The company says its three core products are IO drugs - PD-1, PD-L1 and CTLA-4 antibodies - which will be paired with other of its assets to offer combination therapies. As part of its development, CStone has in-licensed molecularly targeted compounds from Agios (a $424 million deal) and Blueprint (a $386 million, three-drug agreement), which CStone will develop in greater China.
LG Chem Life Sciences of South Korea formed a nearly $1 billion IO collaboration with Cue Biopharma (NASDAQ:CUE), a Boston area immunotherapy company. LG will have Asia rights, including China, to three Cue IO candidates, all of them in preclinical development. LG will provide its biologics manufacturing expertise to the portfolio. LG paid an unspecified upfront fee, invested $5 million in Cue, and will be responsible for up to $400 million in milestones. In addition, LG will have a two-year option on global rights to another Cue candidate in a deal worth over $500 million in fees and potential milestones.
Agilent Technologies (NYSE:A) closed its $250 million acquisition of ACEA Biosciences, a San Diego-Hangzhou company that provides cell analysis tools. ACEA is focused on real-time, live cell analysis of cell function and metabolism. Founded in 2002, the company has manufacturing and R&D facilities in Hangzhou. In 2015, ACEA raised $30 million from China investors Qiming and Lilly Asia Ventures. Agilent says ACEA's offerings are complementary to its own portfolio of lab tools for life science, diagnostics and applied chemical markets.
I-Mab Biopharma of Tianjin in-licensed greater China rights to a novel checkpoint inhibitor from Germany's MorphoSys (NASDAQ:MOR) in a $105 million agreement. I-Mab will also conduct proof-of-concept clinical studies of MOR210, a preclinical C5aR antibody. In return for the proof-of-concept studies, MorphoSys will pay I-Mab single-digit royalties on any revenues outside greater China. One year ago, I-Mab in-licensed rights to a MorphoSys anti-CD38 mAb in a $120 million deal.
NextCure of Maryland closed a $93 million series B financing led by China investors Hillhouse Capital and Quan Capital. The financing will support NextCure's next-gen immunomedicines for cancer and other diseases, especially NC318, a first-in-class molecule aimed at S15. S15 is a novel immunomodulatory target associated with lung, ovarian and head and neck cancers. NextCure is also using its FIND-IO platform to identify additional targets that impact immune function.
YITU Healthcare, a subsidiary of Shanghai artificial intelligence company YITU, raised nearly $15 million to apply AI to early cancer detection and screening. The company aims to develop a "map of preventing cancer with AI." It will spend the money over five years to develop new products. It already has an AI-aided CT-scan reader to diagnose lung cancer and create a big data library. The car.ai product reads the scan to make a diagnosis and produce a structured report.
Shanghai Exuma Biotech, a subsidiary of Florida's F1 Oncology, has been formed to develop novel CAR-T cell therapies. Exuma will hold rights to F1 Oncology's proprietary CAR-T technologies, which are combined with BioAtla's conditionally active biologic (CAB) protein technology. CAB therapies are designed to be active only upon specific conditions in the tumor micro-environment. Exuma, which has manufacturing facilities in Shanghai and Shenzhen, will develop CAB-CAR-T therapies and other adoptive cellular therapies (ACTs) for solid tumor malignancies.
Sinovant Sciences in-licensed greater China rights to BB3, a small molecule hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) mimetic, from Angion Biomedica of New York State. Angion is currently conducting US trials of BB3 to treat delayed graft function and acute kidney injury. Sinovant, a Hong Kong-Shanghai biopharma, was formed in 2017 as the China arm of the Roivant Group. In July, it announced it acquired China rights to a portfolio of 11 Roivant drug candidates and an unspecified amount of backing from CITICPE.
Trials and Approvals
Innovent Biologics (HK: 1801) of Suzhou reported that China regulators have accepted its filing of a new drug application for IBI303, a biosimilar to Humira (adalimumab). It is Innovent's second NDA accepted by the NMPA - the first is its anti-PD-L1 candidate (IBI308). IBI303 is a recombinant human anti-TNF-α monoclonal antibody aimed at ankylosing spondylitis (AS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriasis. Innovent said IBI303 will offer a high-quality and affordable alternative to branded Humira in China.
Generon (Shanghai) has been approved to start a China Phase I clinical trial for A-319, a bi-specific antibody, in patients with B cell malignancies. A-319, Generon's second bispecific antibody to start clinical trials, is a CD3/CD19 bispecific antibody developed on the company's Immuno-Therapy Antibody (ITab)TM platform. The company will test A-319 in patients with B cell malignancies including acute lymphoblastic leukemia and B cell lymphoma. Generon is the biologics arm of Yifan Pharma (SHZ: 002019).