As­cle­tis reaps record $400M from Hong Kong in­vestors in the ex­change's first-ever pre-rev­enue biotech list­ing

The first pre-rev­enue biotech to list on Hong Kong’s stock ex­change has land­ed. And its suc­cess will like­ly spur plen­ty of more such of­fer­ings in search of a big pay­off.

As­cle­tis has raised $400 mil­lion by sell­ing 224 mil­lion new shares at around $1.78 (HK$14) — right in the mid­dle of its an­tic­i­pat­ed HK$12 to HK$16 range, Reuters re­port­ed. It’s sched­uled to be­gin trad­ing on Au­gust 1, less than three months af­ter it first filed for the IPO.

GIC, Sin­ga­pore’s sov­er­eign wealth fund, signed on to be the cor­ner­stone in­vestor and com­mit­ted $75 mil­lion for around 19% of the IPO shares. The rest — which in turn ac­counts for about 20% of As­cle­tis’ en­larged share cap­i­tal — was all snapped up in an over­sub­scribed fren­zy.

Jinzi Wu

Found­ed by ex-GSK ex­ec Jinzi Wu in 2011, As­cle­tis has a rep­u­ta­tion in Chi­na for be­ing the first do­mes­tic com­pa­ny to de­vel­op a hep C cure. The drug, Gano­vo, is ex­pect­ed to be ap­proved in Q3 of 2018. The team plans to fol­low that up with an­oth­er HCV treat­ment, ravi­dasvir (in-li­censed from Roche), along with HIV drug ASC09, and liv­er can­cer ther­a­py HASC06.

Be­ing the first biotech to test the new list­ing rules wasn’t easy. Wu pre­vi­ous­ly said that As­cle­tis faced “some chal­lenges” in nail­ing down the com­pa­ny’s val­u­a­tion.

The smooth tra­jec­to­ry of As­cle­tis’ IPO like­ly paves the way for the six oth­er biotechs and one CRO — from Hua Med­i­cine to Stealth Bio­Ther­a­peu­tics — that’s of­fered their own IPO pitch.

It’s al­so a mile­stone for HKEX, which has been an­gling to be­come an IPO des­ti­na­tion for biotech up­starts, es­pe­cial­ly the kind that’s been pop­ping up in main­land Chi­na the past decade.

Just a few days ago, word came out that the list­ing com­mit­tee is dis­cussing a sec­ondary list­ing with BeiGene $BGNE — the Bei­jing-based, Cel­gene-part­nered biotech whose Nas­daq list­ing (and im­mense suc­cess) had been seen as an im­pe­tus for Hong Kong to change its rules.

In its fil­ing, BeiGene wrote that it be­lieves it’s “well po­si­tioned to cap­ture the sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties in Chi­na” with its core as­sets zanubru­ti­nib, tislelizum­ab and pami­parib, all of which would ben­e­fit from the raise, from clin­i­cal tri­als to reg­is­tra­tion and com­mer­cial­iza­tion in both Chi­na and the US.

But the star to­day is As­cle­tis. The past year has brought a rush of biotech de­buts in the US, with Ru­bius claim­ing the largest biotech IPO so far on Nas­daq — rais­ing $241 mil­lion — while De­nali scored $250 mil­lion in late 2017. Now As­cle­tis, a com­pa­ny not well known out­side of Chi­na, has left those top per­form­ers in the dust, in­clud­ing Ax­o­vant, which held the record for the biggest biotech IPO.

With the fresh in­fu­sion of cash, Wu and his team can now car­ry on with the planned R&D and com­mer­cial­iza­tion of core prod­ucts, as well as in-li­cens­ing more drugs.

Two pre­vi­ous rounds of fi­nanc­ing had brought a col­lec­tive $155 mil­lion in­to As­cle­tis’ ac­counts. Among their back­ers: C-Bridge Cap­i­tal, Qian­Hai Eq­ui­ty In­vest­ment FOF, Gold­man Sachs, and Tasly Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal. Wu and his wife Ju­ly He are still the largest share­hold­ers of the com­pa­ny at the mo­ment, own­ing over 60% of the shares.

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a big plan to ex­pand its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

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Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.