China, People, Venture

Abbas Hussain swings from top GSK pharma post to powerhouse Chinese private equity player C-Bridge

Near the beginning of this year Abbas Hussain announced plans to leave his role as GlaxoSmithKline’s pharma chief, handing over the job to Luke Miels as new CEO Emma Walmsley began to assemble her own top team. And now Hussain has landed at C-Bridge Capital, a powerhouse Chinese private equity group which has invested heavily in some prominent Asian biotechs.

Hussain spent eight years at GSK, building the pharma giant into the lead volume operation in the drug industry and rolling out a quota-free sales model in dozens of countries around the world. He started as emerging markets chief, with a big role in cleaning up a bribery scandal in China capped with a $500 million fine.

His shift to senior partner at C-Bridge — after being tapped as a possible replacement for GSK CEO Andrew Witty — says a lot about the fast-changing biopharma world we live in now and China’s growing role in the industry.

C-Bridge has gathered $700 million so far to back companies which are aimed at bringing a wide range of life sciences products into the booming Chinese market. Around the same time Hussain was prepping his departure at GSK, C-Bridge was leading a $100 million mega round for Jinzi Wu’s Ascletis, which is introducing a new hep C combo in China. Two months later the group was taking a leading role in a $150 million financing used to merge Tianjing Biopharma Technology with Tianjin-based Tianzhenshi Biotechnology Company, creating a biotech with 12 antibodies in the pipeline.

Tianjing Biopharma was founded by Zang Jingwu, GSK’s former head of R&D in China.

Just three months ago C-Bridge closed a $400 million biopharma fund, its second. That was twice the amount the group had to start with in its first fund, highlighting the kind of biopharma capital now coursing through Asia and China in particular.

Hussain is coming in as C-Bridge builds out its US team, with offices in New York, San Diego and Boston. That includes:

→ Sean Cao, ex-Simcere business development chief, who will run the Boston office.

→ Former Thomas, McNerney & Partners partner Jason Brown, who heads the San Diego office.

→ Michael Keyoung, managing director for the US based in New York. He is the former CEO of a company called Genexine.

→ And Zhang Tong, a former WuXi AppTec BD exec in Shanghai now joining as a managing director in New York.

They’ll be scouting the US for new life sciences technologies — drugs, devices and diagnostics, that can be funneled through portfolio companies into China.

That basic strategy has helped advance a lineup of Chinese biotechs, which have been in-licensing drugs from key US and European companies. The Chinese government, though, just signaled that it’s willing to use data from overseas drug studies, giving the big foreign players a direct opening if they choose to forego a local partnership.

“We are thrilled to have Abbas join our global team at C-Bridge Capital, as he brings an impressive track record of profitable growth across unique and diverse markets,” said Fu Wei, CEO of C- Bridge Capital. “Abbas is a valuable addition to our team, which is focused on identifying emerging industry leaders across biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and in vitro diagnostics to bring global innovation into China.”


Image: Bloomberg, Getty

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