Week In Review: Apollomics Merges With SPAC To Support Candidates Targeting Difficult-To-Treat Cancers

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Deals and Financings

Apollomics, Inc. (APLM), a US-China biopharma, merged with a SPAC to list on the Nasdaq exchange to advance its portfolio of six clinical assets that are aimed at difficult-to-treat, high mortality cancers (see story). At the merger price of $10/share, Apollomics had a market cap of about $900 million, but the shares have climbed 121% higher in trading, giving the company a value of $1.9 billion.

Apollomics is headquartered in Foster City, CA with operations in Hangzhou. Using targeted therapy, immuno-oncology agents and other innovative approaches, Apollomics has built a portfolio of nine novel candidates. 

Pharmaron Beijing received a $186 million grant from the UK to expand its Liverpool viral vector and DNA manufacturing facilities, adding more than 8,000 square meters (see story). Pharmaron, a CDMO with operations in China, the US, and UK, acquired the cell and gene facility in 2021 from AbbVie (ABBV), which was divesting the Allergan-built facility after it acquired the company.

Pharmaron said the expansion will provide a four-fold increase in gene therapy process development and analytical capacity for viral vector, DNA, and RNA drug development, plus drug product formulation and commercial scale GMP capacity in the future.

ArriVent Biopharma completed an oversubscribed $155 million Series B round to fund its in-licensing of US rights to medications from China and other emerging countries (see story).

The Philadelphia company said it would use most of the proceeds to underwrite the cost of a pivotal Phase III trial of its lead product, furmonertinib, a brain penetrating, mutant-specific EGFR kinase inhibitor in-licensed from Shanghai's Allist Pharma. ArriVent broke out of stealth mode last year with the furmonertinib rights and an impressive $150 million in initial funding from China investors. 

Salubris Biotherapeutics has received $35 million from its parent, Shenzhen Salubris Pharma, to advance its lead candidate, a treatment for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), currently in a US Phase Ib trial (see story).

JK07 is a recombinant fusion protein that combines a fully human immunoglobulin IgG1 mAb and an active polypeptide fragment of the human growth factor neuregulin (NRG-1). The capital will support Phase Ib and II trials of JK07. Salubris Bio, a Gaithersburg, Maryland pharma, was founded in 2016 to develop novel complex biologic drugs for cardiovascular, oncology, and neurodegenerative diseases. 

Shenzhen OncoVent, a Hepalink subsidiary, sold Taiwan commercialization rights for an immunotherapy candidate that targets ovarian cancer to Orient EuroPharma in an $11 million agreement (see story). OEP will be responsible for all development costs in Taiwan.

Oregovomab is a first-in-class anti-CA125 immunotherapy that is currently in a global Phase III trial. It is expected to enroll 602 patients from 190 clinical sites in 17 countries. OEP will also have right of first refusal for commercialization of the drug in Hong Kong and Macau. OncoVent acquired greater China rights to Oregovomab from Canada’s OncoQuest in 2017. 

Shanghai Junshi Bio (SHJBF) formed a JV with Singapore’s Rxilient Biotech to commercialize Junshi’s anti-PD-1 drug, toripalimab, in nine Southeast Asian countries (see story). Rxilient, a drug registration/commercialization company, will pay $5 million for a 40% stake in Excellmab, the new JV, and Junshi will contribute the rights for toripalimab in the countries.

Junshi pointed out that toripalimab, the first China-developed PD-1 approved in China, is already involved in 30 countries around the globe. It is being tested for 15 indications, including cancers of the lung, nasopharynx, esophagus, stomach, bladder, breast, liver, kidney, and skin. 

Shanghai Ablaze Pharmaceuticals in-licensed China rights to a first-in-class novel peptide drug candidate aimed at treating liver cancer from San Diego’s RayzeBio (see story). The candidate targets GPC3, which is expressed only by the liver. In preclinical tests, the GPC3 candidate showed tumor specific uptake and anti-tumor efficacy in preclinical models.

Ablaze develops Targeted Radiotherapy drugs for cancer patients and operates as RayzeBio’s development/commercialization arm in China. Ken Song, MD, is President and CEO at RayzeBio and Chairman of Ablaze, although the two companies are considered separate. 

SciNeuro Pharmaceuticals, a Shanghai CNS company, signed a research agreement with Munich’s Secarna Pharma to discover next-gen antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) therapies for undruggable neurological targets (see story). Secarna will use its nucleic acid discovery platform, LNAplusTM, to generate and profile antisense oligonucleotide candidates against targets selected by SciNeuro.

SciNeuro has an option for exclusive worldwide rights to the candidates. Founded in 2020, SciNeuro was launched with $100 million in initial funding. The company is led by Min Li, PhD, a Venture Partner at Lilly Asia Ventures, who was head of GSK’s Shanghai R&D center until it was shut down in 2017. 

Trials and Approvals

YS Biopharma (YS), a Beijing company, released positive interim Phase II safety and immunogenicity data for its PIKA recombinant COVID-19 Vaccine (see story). Data from the Phase II part of the Phase II/III trial showed the prophylactic/therapeutic vaccine met its primary and secondary immunogenicity endpoints.

The clinical study evaluated the PIKA recombinant COVID-19 vaccine vs. inactivated COVID-19 vaccine. YS Biopharma, a maker of vaccines and therapeutic biologics for infectious diseases and cancer, recently merged with Summit Healthcare Acquisition, a SPAC, and it now trades on the Nasdaq exchange with a market value of $284 million. 

Shenzhen ImmVira, a company developing biological vectors as a delivery mechanism, was approved to start China trials of its oncolytic virus product MVR-C5252 in patients with malignant glioma (see story). The company will also conduct clinical research on the candidate with Duke University in the US using Convection Enhanced Delivery as the administration method.

Developed on ImmVira's OVPENS platform, MVR-C5252 is designed to treat central nervous system tumors. ImmVira’s first three oncolytic virus products are undergoing six Phase I or Phase II clinical trials in the US and China. 

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