AstraZeneca spinout Viela Bio pockets $75M on its way to BLA for autoimmune drug
On the verge of a BLA filing for its lead drug in a pipeline spun out of AstraZeneca, Viela Bio has pushed its venture funding over the $300 million line.
The $75 million Series B comes over a year after the pharma giant’s MedImmune subsidiary packaged six drugs from its respiratory, inflammation & autoimmune unit into a $250 million biotech player. Bing Yao, who headed that team, is leading Viela Bio as CEO.
With the new cash, the team — located at MedImmune’s base of Gaithersburg, MD — expects to get inebilizumab to the FDA soon, Yao said. The drug, which binds to CD19, is being prepped to treat neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder, or NMOSD, an autoimmune disease marked by inflammation of the optic nerve and spinal cord.
A Phase IIb pivotal trial showed that patients receiving the therapy experienced a 77% decrease in the risk of developing an NMOSD attack versus placebo.
While securing an approval for this indication will be the priority, “we believe this financing also puts us in a strong position to pursue additional new indications with inebilizumab,” Yao added.
Operating under a biotech structure while working with old colleagues from MedImmune and getting support — in terms of finances as well as manufacturing — from AstraZeneca have helped accelerate the development of Viela’s drugs, Yao told BioSpace in a recent interview.
“It’s almost like a continuation of MedImmune,” he said.
The MedImmune brand name has since been swept away in a company-wide R&D reorganization orchestrated by chief Pascal Soriot, which saw several execs depart to make way for a new structure demarcated by oncology.
In preparation for its BLA, Viela Bio has also inked a commercial deal with seasoned Chinese pharma Hansoh centered around inebilizumab. All told, the deal is worth up to $220 million including upfront and milestones.
The other two clinical programs are MEDI4920, an anti-CD40L-Tn3 fusion protein for an inflammatory condition called primary Sjögren’s syndrome, and MEDI7734 for myositis.
HBM Healthcare Investments led the round, which saw a number of new investors including Viking Global Investors, Cormorant Asset Management, Terra Magnum Capital Partners, Goldman Sachs, and Barer & Son Capital. Temasek was the only existing backer named in the release; the previous syndicate also featured Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital and Hillhouse Capital.