Week In Review: METiS, A US-China AI Biotech, Acquires Pan-RAF Inhibitor In $482 Million Deal

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Deals and Financings

METiS Therapeutics, a Boston-Shanghai AI company, in-licensed global rights to a pan-RAF inhibitor program from Korea’s Voronoi in a deal worth up to $482 million (see story). METiS will pay only $1.7 million upfront, with provision for $480.5 million in milestone payments, plus royalties.

In December 2021, METiS completed a $86 million Series A funding, exclusively from China investors. In May, the company joined the Shanghai Roche Accelerator, the first AI drug discovery company at the Accelerator. METiS will apply its AI and machine learning platforms to develop the Voronoi pan-RAF inhibitor. 

Beijing Lepu Medical Technology (300003.SZ) will raise $224 million by listing its Global Depositary Receipts on the SWX Swiss Exchange (see story). The company makes medical devices, APIs, in-vitro diagnostics, biomarkers, and surgical equipment. Lepu will use part of the proceeds for strategic investments, including building overseas R&D centers, production bases, and business expansion centers.

Lepu Medical made its debut on the Shenzhen GEM market in 2009. Several years ago, the company spun out its oncology drug development operations to Lepu Biopharma (2157.HK), which completed a $116 million Hong Kong IPO earlier this year. 

Hangzhou Celregen Therapeutics signed a $100 million agreement to in-license China rights for a novel therapy that uses induced Pluripotent Stem Cells to repair bullous keratopathy, a blister-like swelling of the cornea (see story). Celregen, a subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharma (2196.HK), acquired the rights from Japan’s Cellusion, a regenerative medicine startup.

Currently, bullous keratopathy is treated by transplanting a donated cornea, but the number of donated corneas covers only 1% of the global need. Fosun’s Celregen, which focuses on regenerative medicine and cell therapy, was incubated by Fosun Health Capital’s New Drug Fund. 

Apollomics, a Foster City-Hangzhou oncology company, has agreed to merge with Maxpro Capital Acquisition (JMAC), a special acquisition company formed to take a company public (see story). Apollomics is developing a pipeline of nine clinical, pre-clinical, and discovery stage drug candidates for patients with difficult-to-treat cancers, including products for lung cancer and leukemia.

The agreement implies a market value of $899 million for Apollomics, which will retain up to $105 million of cash. Existing Apollomics shareholders will own 87% of the new entity’s stock after the closing, expected to occur during the first quarter of 2023. 

Shanghai Worg Pharma completed a $57 million Series B financing to advance clinical trials of its lead products and build its leadership team (see story). Worg has two innovative technology platforms, both acquired from other companies, that have developed clinical-stage products: PCFiT for allergy vaccines and Apitope (antigen processing independent epitopes) that directly target the immunological basis of autoimmune diseases.

In 2020, Worg closed a deal with Biomay, an Austrian company, for its PCFiT platform and its five allergy candidates. One year ago, Worg bought Apitope and its four immunotherapy candidates for autoimmune diseases. 

Great Bay Bio, a Hong Kong CRO developing AI-based bioprocessing platforms, closed a $15 million Pre-Series B funding led by Tiger Jade Capital (see story). Tiger Jade was seeded by China’s TigerMed, a clinical CRO with clients who may need GBB’s services.

GBB will use the funds to advance its AI-based bioprocessing platforms, build production facilities, and form a global commercial development team. Also participating in the funding were AEF Greater Bay Area Fund (managed by Gobi Partners GBA), Vectr Ventures and an unnamed MNC. 

Redbud Medicine, a Beijing-Maryland clinical CRO, closed a $10 million Series A round to support its cross-border China-US operations (see story). The company aims to supply clinical CRO services in both countries, allowing biopharma companies to have a single CRO operator that is fully capable of conducting trials for the two markets.

Further, by using intelligent technologies, Redbud says it optimizes and accelerates every clinical trial step, lowering the cost and accelerating the process. The round included MING Bioventures Capital, Delian Capital and an Angel round investor Hongfeng Capital. 

Singapore’s Advanced MedTech Holdings (AMTH) acquired a majority interest in WIKKON, a Shenzhen company that develops urology products and shock wave therapy devices for kidney stones (see story). WIKKON focuses on urological and orthopedic conditions, erectile dysfunction, and joint, muscle, or tissue pain along with kidney stones.

Both companies claim a major share for exterior kidney stone devices in their own markets. AMTH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore’s Temasek, was spun out of Accuron Technology in 2019. It expects to acquire the rest of WIKKON by the end of 2022. The purchase price was not disclosed. 

Government and Regulatory

Asymchem’s $58 million acquisition of Boston’s Snapdragon Chemistry, a cross-border tie-up of CDMOs, was blocked by US regulators (see story). Asymchem (6821.HK), headquartered in Tianjin, but with operations also in the US and EU, is a CDMO. Snapdragon, a Boston-area company with expertise in flow chemistry, has developed a novel advanced continuous manufacturing program and built a manufacturing facility with up to 30kg capacity.

The US Treasury’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) refused to approve the acquisition, in part because Snapdragon developed its technology with US government funds, and CFIUS did not want a China-based company to own the technology. 

Trials and Approvals

I-Mab (IMAB) reported its novel CD47 inhibitor showed encouraging results in a China Phase II trial data in patients with newly diagnosed higher risk myelodysplastic syndrome (HR-MDS) (see story). Lemzoparlimab was administered in combination with azacitidine (AZA).

After six months of treatment, the overall response rate was 87% and complete response rate was 40%. After four months of treatment, the efficacy was nearly as high. I-Mab, a Shanghai-Maryland biopharma, plans to conduct a randomized Phase III trial of the candidate in the same patient population. Lemzoparlimab is one of four I-Mab candidates in Phase II trials. 

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