Week In Review: China Biopharma Tops $2.8 Billion In Week's Dealmaking

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Deals and Financings

CSPC Pharma (1093.HK) out-licensed global rights (ex-China) for its antibody drug conjugate targeting Claudin18.2 to Elevation Oncology of New York City (see story). CSPC will receive a $27 million upfront payment, up to $148 million in development and regulatory milestones, and as much as $1 billion in commercial milestone payments, plus royalties on net sales.

CSPC is conducting a China Phase I dose escalation trial of EO-3021 in patients with gastric and pancreatic cancers, and Elevation plans to start a similar trial in the US next year. CSPC is headquartered in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province. 

Chengdu’s Kelun-Biotech out-licensed global rights to an ADC candidate aimed at solid tumors to MSD (Merck) in a deal worth up to $936 million (see story). No further details about the candidate were released. This is the second partnership between the two companies.

Earlier this year, MSD acquired worldwide rights (ex-China) to Kelun-Biotech’s TROP2 ADC in a $1.4 billion deal ($45 million upfront). The TROP2 candidate is in Phase III trials for metastatic triple-negative breast cancer and in Phase II trials for non-small cell lung cancer and advanced solid tumors. 

Shanghai’s InvestisBio (688382.SS) raised $296 million in a Shanghai STAR Board IPO, giving the company a market capitalization of $1.5 billion (see story). The company has three clinical-stage assets and five projects in pre-clinical development, all of them developed in-house.

The NDA filing for its lead product, a third-gen EGFR inhibitor targeting non-small cell lung cancer, has been accepted for review by China’s NMPA. Before InvestisBio’s debut offering, there have been only two IPOs on the STAR Board in 2022: RemeGen’s $410 million initial offering in early April and January’s Mabwell Bio $547 million IPO. 

Legend Biotech (LEGN), a New Jersey-Nanjing cell therapy company, announced plans to raise $250 million by selling American Depositary Shares in an underwritten public offering (see story). In February, Legend was approved to launch its BCMA CAR-T therapy, Carvykti, as a fifth-line therapy for multiple myeloma in the US, and EU approval followed in May.

At the recent ASCO convention, Legend revealed the CAR-T had not reached a median progression of disease or death after more than two years in MM patients. Legend is conducting tests of Carvykti as a second-line therapy for multiple myeloma.

Chengdu’s Maxvax raised $74 million in a Series B round to support clinical trials of several pipeline vaccine candidates, including herpes zoster and rotavirus for neonates and children under 5 years (see story).

The company is currently developing more than ten new vaccines, with two candidates in clinical trials. It expects IND approvals for several more in the next year and will start R&D for animal vaccines as well. The B round was led by China Life Private Equity Investment, with Sherpa Investment, Hillhouse Venture Capital, Fangshizhen Capital, and Xinshang Capital participating. 

Suzhou Ribo Life Science closed a $40 million Series E1 to support global development of its RNA programs (see story). Established in 2007, Ribo focuses on China development of oligonucleotide therapeutics including siRNA, antisense, and aptamer drugs based on proprietary intellectual properties.

The company has eight products in development, including lead assets for hepatitis B and non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION). It uses conjugated N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) for delivery of many of its products. The E1 financing was backed by Panlin Capital, Trinity Innovation Fund, and other investors. 

BridGene Biosciences, a San Jose, CA discovery biotech, completed a $38.5 million Series B funding from China investors led by Lapam Capital, Junson Capital, and Dyee Capital (see story). BridGene has developed a proprietary chemoproteomic platform to discover small molecule drug for targets usually considered undruggable.

The company’s IMTAC™ platform screens small molecules against the whole proteome or against a prioritized target in live cells to discover drug candidates for diseases that include cancers. The proceeds will also be used to develop BridGene's leading candidate, a covalent TEAD inhibitor, and other oncology projects. 

Shanghai Rona Therapeutics, an RNA company, acquired worldwide exclusive rights to Sanofi’s siRNA platform of chemical modification and delivery moiety plus rights to four pre-clinical candidates for liver diseases (see story).

Sanofi will have an option to in-license selected neuro and muscular candidates for territories outside Greater China that Rona discovers using the siRNA platform. Rona will make upfront and milestone payments to Sanofi plus royalties, though the amounts were not disclosed. Rona said the deal will expand its siRNA portfolio in liver and non-liver applications. 

Trials and Approvals

Hangzhou’s HanX and Beijing Lepu Biopharma (2157.HK) were approved to launch their partnered anti-PD-1 mAb as a second-line therapy for advanced colorectal cancers (see story). Specifically, Puyouheng (pucotenlimab injection) is indicated for second-line treatment of unresectable or metastatic microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) advanced solid tumors.

The companies said their PD-1 would also be recommended for patients with other advanced solid tumors that have progressed and who have no satisfactory alternative treatment options. 

Denovo Biopharma, a Hangzhou-San Diego precision medicine company, has started a global biomarker-guided Phase IIb clinical trial of its therapy for treatment resistant depression (see story). DB104 (liafensine) is a first-in-class triple reuptake inhibitor targeting transporters for dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. 

Using its machine learning technology, the company discovered a novel genetic biomarker for DB104 efficacy. Denovo “rescues” drugs that did not meet their efficacy goals by finding a biomarker that defines a sub-population of patients in which the candidate is effective. Its DGM4 biomarker may be the first genetic biomarker-guided therapy for a mental health disorder. 

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