Week In Review: LianBio Acquires Two IBD Candidates In $218 Million Deal

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LianBio, a Princeton-Shanghai company, in-licensed Greater China rights for two inflammatory bowel disease candidates from Landos Biopharma (Nasdaq: LABP) (see story). The $218 million deal includes $18 million upfront and $200 million in milestones. The two assets are novel, oral, gut-restricted agonists, both of which are in trials for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. LianBio was formed by Perceptive Advisors, a US healthcare investor, and Landos was backed by Xontology, which partnered with Perceptive to form  two funds that invest in biopharma startups. 

Ji Xing Pharma of Shanghai acquired Greater China rights to a novel treatment for tachycardia from Milestone Pharma (Nasdaq: MIST) in a $127.5 million agreement (see story). Ji Xing's backer, RTW Investments, a New York company focused on innovative medicines for China, will make a $15 million upfront payment to Milestone and invest $5 million in the company. Ji Xing will be responsible for up to $107.5 million in milestone payments. Milestone is conducting a US Phase III trial of the candidate, etripamil, a nasal treatment for paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. 

Singapore's Hummingbird Bioscience closed a $125 million Series C financing round led by Novo Holdings (see story). The company is developing novel precision candidates by focusing on difficult-to-drug targets that have been biologically validated in cancer and autoimmune disease. Hummingbird has developed a platform based on a data-driven systems biology approach, which engineers next-gen therapies for unmet needs. It has announced three candidates, two of which have started clinical trials, one for HER3 cancers and another for advanced solid tumors. 

Duality Biologics, an innovative China-US biotech company, closed a $90 million series B financing (see story). Founded in 2020, DualityBio develops bispecific and Antibody-Drug Conjugate (ADC) drugs for oncology and autoimmune indications. It has built an internal pipeline of nearly 10 novel Best-in-Class and First-in-Class candidates, including several candidates in the IND stage. DualityBio has China operations in Shanghai and Suzhou and a US facility in Princeton. The B round was led by Lilly Asia Ventures. 

GeneQuantum Healthcare (Suzhou) completed a Series C funding to develop its portfolio of site-specific antibody drug conjugate molecules (see story). According to the company, the C round raised several hundreds of millions of RMB, which puts the funding at least in the $50 million range, but the exact amount was not disclosed. GeneQuantum says it has built a differentiated ADC platform that addresses the major problems of ADC drugs: high heterogeneity, narrow therapeutic window and high manufacturing cost. The Series C was led by China Life Private Equity Investment. 

Suzhou BioNovoGene completed a $15 million Series A funding to support its metabolomics services including mass spectrometry test kits (see story). Founded in 2013, the company has established a complete metabolomics testing and analysis platform. Its cloud data analysis system, BioDeep™ has independent intellectual property rights. The company will use the funds to expand its technology platform and develop additional clinical mass spectrometry test kits/products for metabolomics. The round was led by YuanBio Venture Capital. 

BioRay Pharmaceutical, a Taizhou biotech, in-licensed rights to pritumumab, a potential treatment for brain cancer, from Nascent Biotech of San Diego (see story). BioRay will pay up to $5 million for global pritumumab rights except for North America and Central America. Pritumumab is a natural human antibody that binds to vimentin, a protein expressed on the surface of epithelial cancers but not healthy cells. BioRay is the biologics subsidiary of China's Hisun Pharma. In 2019, PAG, a Hong Kong private equity firm, paid $540 million to acquire a 58% stake in BioRay.  

Company News

CARsgen Therapeutics of Shanghai will invest $157 million in a combination US CAR-T R&D lab and manufacturing site in Durham, North Carolina (see story). CARsgen has several CAR-T candidates, the company's exclusive focus, in China and US clinical trials. The North Caroline facility will initially consist of a 35,000-square-foot clinical lab facility for R&D of cell therapies. A second facility, which will be 100,000 square feet in size, will handle manufacturing. The project will eventually hire at least 200 workers. CARsgen has already built a manufacturing facility in Shanghai. 

Trials and Approvals

Beijing's BeiGene (Nasdaq: BGNE; HK: 06160) announced its anti-PD-1 drug, tislelizumab, met its endpoints in a Phase III trial as a first-line therapy for nasopharyngeal cancer (see story). A combination of tislelizumab and chemotherapy showed a statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival among patients with recurrent or metastatic nasopharyngeal cancer. Tislelizumab is already approved for three other cancer indications in China. BeiGene intends to release specific data from the trial at an upcoming scientific meeting. 

Beijing's Burning Rock Biotech (Nasdaq: BNR) will start a large blood-based, pan-cancer early-detection study in China using a multi-omics approach (see story). The trial will enroll 11,879 participants with 22 cancer types, which cause 88% of cancer incidence in China, along with healthy control individuals. The trial aims to make new discoveries that will improve early stage liquid biopsies. Burning Rock recently reported that its Elsa-seq early detection assay had a 80.6% sensitivity and 98.3% specificity in six major cancer types. 

Beijing's InnoCare (HK: 09969) reported China approved a Phase I trial of its novel oral TYK2 (Tyrosine Kinase 2) inhibitor, the company’s fifth innovative drug to start clinical trials (see story). ICP-332 is designed to be a potent and selective TYK2 inhibitor with a 400 fold improvement in selectivity against JAK2 to avoid the adverse events associated with non-selective JAK inhibitors. It will be tested as a therapy for autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. No selective TYK2 inhibitors are approved globally.

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