As­cen­t­age soars dur­ing its first day on the Hong Kong ex­change, fol­low­ing $53M de­but

As­cen­t­age Phar­ma’s IPO boun­ty might have been mod­est com­pared to pre­vi­ous pub­lic de­buts on the Hong Kong stock ex­change, but it’s prov­ing pop­u­lar among in­vestors on its first trad­ing day.

The Suzhou-based biotech soared as much as 57% ear­ly Mon­day af­ter com­plet­ing a $53 mil­lion raise on Fri­day, Bloomberg not­ed. The launch price of HK$34.2 (around $4.36) fell in the mid­dle of the range, trans­lat­ing to a mar­ket cap of al­most $890 mil­lion. As­cen­t­age’s stock end­ed the day at HK$37.6.

Its list­ing kicks up some ac­tion in the rel­a­tive­ly qui­et biotech cor­ner of HKEX, which last saw Shang­hai Hen­lius reap $410 mil­lion in Sep­tem­ber — the city’s largest float since the sum­mer.

At 9 years old, As­cen­t­age is a well-known name in the Chi­nese biotech cir­cle that brought in $150 mil­lion in a Se­ries C last year be­fore it first filed for an IPO. Sino Bio­pharm — a con­glom­er­ate al­so list­ed on HKEX — was a cor­ner­stone in­vestor, join­ing Yuan­Ming, Oriza Seed Ven­ture Cap­i­tal, Teng Yue Part­ners, Ar­row­Mark Part­ners, HDY In­ter­na­tion­al In­vest­ment, CTS Cap­i­tal and CCB In­ter­na­tion­al in back­ing the com­pa­ny.

Much of the pro­ceeds are ex­pect­ed to go to­ward HQP1351, its lead drug tar­get­ing BCR-ABL-mu­ta­tions in chron­ic myeloid leukemia pa­tients who’ve de­vel­oped re­sis­tance to ty­ro­sine ki­nase in­hibitors. It’s in Phase II tri­als in Chi­na and As­cen­t­age has se­cured an IND from the FDA to run a glob­al de­vel­op­ment pro­gram in par­al­lel.

In its fil­ing, the com­pa­ny sin­gled it out as the on­ly as­set with mon­ey al­lo­cat­ed for com­mer­cial­iza­tion, though it’s al­so ear­mark­ing some cash to its oth­er pro­grams, which cov­er a va­ri­ety of can­cers as well as he­pati­tis B and dry AMD.

While CEO Da­jun Yang orig­i­nal­ly found­ed As­cen­t­age’s R&D op­er­a­tions around his apop­to­sis ex­per­tise — at­tract­ing Uni­ty Biotech­nol­o­gy to a part­ner­ship cen­tered around ag­ing — he’s al­so made next-gen ki­nase in­hibitors a fo­cal point. One of the core drugs in this group, of the c-Met re­cep­tor va­ri­ety, was picked up from Mer­ck for just $500,000 up­front.

Spread out be­tween Chi­na, the US and Aus­tralia, As­cen­t­age planned to build the team up to 400 by the end of this year. An R&D cen­ter and man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty are in the works on its home turf, which are ex­pect­ed to be com­plet­ed by 2019 and 2020, re­spec­tive­ly.

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

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Usama Malik

Ex-Im­munomedics CFO charged with in­sid­er trad­ing, faces up to 20 years in prison af­ter al­leged­ly tip­ping off girl­friend and rel­a­tives of a PhI­II suc­cess

The former CFO of Immunomedics, who helped steer the company to its $21 billion buyout by Gilead last year, has been charged with insider trading, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Usama Malik tipped off his then-girlfriend and four others that a Phase III study for Trodelvy would be stopped early four days before Immunomedics publicly announced the result in April 2020, DoJ alleged in its complaint. The individuals then purchased Immunomedics shares, selling them after the news broke and Immunomedics’ stock price doubled.

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Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Ab­b­Vie tacks on a new warn­ing to Rin­voq la­bel as safe­ty frets crimp JAK class

The safety problems that continue to plague the JAK class as new data highlight some severe side effects are casting a large shadow over AbbVie’s Rinvoq.

As a result of a recent readout highlighting major adverse cardiac events (MACE), malignancy, mortality and thrombosis with Xeljanz a couple of months ago, AbbVie put out a notice late Friday afternoon that it is adding the new class risks to its label for their rival drug.

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Biospec­i­men M&A: Dis­cov­ery ac­quires Al­bert Li's he­pa­to­cyte project; PhI­II tri­al on Bay­er's Nube­qa reached pri­ma­ry end­point

Discovery Life Sciences has acquired what claims to be the Maryland-based host of the world’s largest hepatocyte inventory, known as IVAL, to help researchers select more effective and safer drug candidates in the future.

The combined companies will now serve a wider range of drug research and development scientists, according to Albert Li, who founded IVAL in 2004 and is set to join the Discovery leadership team as the CSO of pharmacology and toxicology.

Pfiz­er, Am­gen and Janssen seek fur­ther clar­i­ty on FDA's new ben­e­fit-risk guid­ance

Three top biopharma companies are seeking more details from the FDA on how the agency conducts its benefit-risk assessments for new drugs and biologics.

While Pfizer, Amgen and Janssen praised the agency for further spelling out its thinking on the subject in a new draft guidance, including a discussion of patient experience data as part of the assessment, the companies said the FDA could’ve included more specifics in the 20-page draft document.

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Drug­mak­ers cut prices on av­er­age by more than 60% to get on Chi­na's 2022 NDRL list — re­port

China’s National Reimbursement Drug List (NRDL) is a crystal clear example of the country’s bargaining power in the biotech and pharma market, as more firms have reportedly agreed to cut their prices for 67 new medicines to be included in its national medical insurance coverage starting in January.

Being on the list is lucrative. Essentially, if a biotech or pharma company gets on this list, they’re covered by the biggest insurance network in the country. Given China’s vast population, the Chinese government has significant leverage to decide which medicines can make a profit. While domestic drugmakers are quite willing to play that game, cutting prices significantly in exchange for getting on the list, international companies don’t do it as often.

Re­searchers move clos­er to de­ci­pher­ing blood clots from As­traZeneca, J&J's Covid-19 vac­cines

Researchers may be nearing an answer for the mysterious and life-threatening blood clots that appeared on very rare occasions in people who received the J&J or AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The new work builds on an early hypothesis researchers in Norway put forward last spring, when the cases first cropped up. They proposed the events were similar to blood clots that can occur in a small subset of patients who receive heparin, one of the most commonly used blood thinners.