As­traZeneca's Chi­nese in­vest­ment bank part­ner rais­es $229M for its own new fund — and it's all about the coro­n­avirus

Last No­vem­ber’s news about As­traZeneca launch­ing a $1 bil­lion ven­ture fund with Chi­na In­ter­na­tion­al Cap­i­tal Cor­po­ra­tion (CI­CC) to in­vest in up-and-com­ing play­ers was wide­ly viewed as il­lus­tra­tive of the British drug­mak­er’s am­bi­tions in Chi­na. As it turns out, it’s just as much about CI­CC — Chi­na’s largest in­vest­ment bank — and its plans in bio­med­i­cine.

Days af­ter an­nounc­ing the As­traZeneca fund, state-backed CI­CC dis­closed that it’s team­ing up with 11 do­mes­tic firms to raise a fund ded­i­cat­ed to in­no­v­a­tive drugs, in vit­ro di­ag­no­sis, med­ical tech­nol­o­gy and health IT. It’s now closed at $229 mil­lion (RMB$1.6 bil­lion), ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

Brand­ed as Chi­na’s an­swer to Gold­man Sachs since it was launched in 1995 with Mor­gan Stan­ley, CI­CC has un­der­writ­ten sev­er­al biotech IPOs in re­cent years in­clud­ing those of I-Mab, Jun­shi and Hen­lius.

CI­CC Cap­i­tal, its pri­vate eq­ui­ty arm, is in charge of man­ag­ing the new fund. With close to $43 bil­lion (RMB$300 bil­lion) in as­sets, CI­CC Cap­i­tal has made bio­med­i­cine one of three pil­lars of its di­rect in­vest­ment port­fo­lio along­side IT and con­sumer busi­ness. Can­cer drug de­vel­op­er Ab­bisko and wound care spe­cial­ist Ten­ry Phar­ma are among its bets.

No­tably, it’s al­so chan­neled its mon­ey in­to VC funds — giv­ing it a stake in big-name health­care-fo­cused play­ers such as Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures, Qim­ing Ven­ture Part­ners, High­Light Cap­i­tal and LYFE Cap­i­tal.

For the new fund, it’s chipped in around $2.9 mil­lion, while Shen­zhen-list­ed Pharscin Phar­ma, Hebei Port Group, Xi­a­men Fig Group, Fu­jian Sun­ner Group, Huirong Qide In­vest­ment, Xi’an Huirong, Xin­wen Ven­ture Cap­i­tal (a sub­sidiary of Sichuan Dai­ly Press Group) and oth­ers pro­vid­ed the rest.

No an­nounce­ment about fund­ing bio­med­i­cine these days is com­plete with­out al­lud­ing to the coro­n­avirus out­break out of Wuhan. CI­CC Cap­i­tal de­vot­ed a con­sid­er­ate por­tion of its brief state­ment to high­light that it’s been in con­tact with mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies to help ac­cel­er­ate de­vel­op­ment of nu­cle­ic acid di­ag­nos­tics, ther­a­peu­tic an­ti­bod­ies, an­tivi­rals as well as vac­cines.

It al­so said its new bio­med­ical fund is the first in­vest­ment fund to have gone through a new fi­nan­cial reg­is­tra­tion path­way set up ear­li­er this month specif­i­cal­ly for funds geared at pre­ven­tion and con­tain­ment of the coro­n­avirus out­break.

“Not on­ly does the Chi­nese bio­med­ical in­dus­try shoul­der great in­no­v­a­tive chal­lenges un­der the epi­dem­ic, it’s al­so ush­ered in a rare de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ty,” the firm stat­ed.

Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen scores a pri­or­i­ty re­view for its Alzheimer's drug ad­u­canum­ab, mov­ing one gi­ant leap for­ward in its con­tro­ver­sial quest

Biogen scored a big win at the FDA today as regulators accepted their application for the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab and gave it a priority review.

The PDUFA date is March 7, 2021.

Significantly, Biogen says it did not use its priority review voucher to win special treatment at the FDA. The agency handed that out gratis.

That’s the ideal scenario Biogen was looking for as disappointed analysts wondered aloud about the delayed application earlier in the year.

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Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

Bio­gen hands De­nali $1B-plus in cash, $1B-plus in mile­stones to part­ner on late-stage Parkin­son’s drug

Biogen is handing over more than a billion dollars cash to partner with the up-and-coming neurosciences crew at Denali on a new therapy for Parkinson’s. And the big biotech is ready to pile on more than a billion dollars more in milestones — if the alliance is a success.

For Biogen $BIIB, the move on Denali’s small molecule inhibitors of LRRK2 puts them in line to collaborate on a late-stage program for DNL151, which is scheduled to start next year.

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Per­cep­tive fields SPAC #3 as an­oth­er group of biotechs scoops up $364M in lat­est Nas­daq romp

There’s no sign that the windfall of cash dropping biotech’s way on Wall Street is abating. Three more biopharmas priced IPOs on Thursday and Friday morning, riding a historic boom with a $364 million payoff.

London-based biotech Freeline Therapeutics took home the lion’s share of the cash with $159 million after pricing 8,823,529 shares at $18 a pop. Checkmate Pharmaceuticals, of Cambridge, MA, raised $75 million with an offer of 5 million shares at $15 — right at the midpoint of its range. And Arya Sciences Acquisition Corp III, the third in a series from Perceptive, priced 13,000,000 shares at $10 per share.

Covid-19 roundup: Gates Foun­da­tion pours $150M in­to In­dia’s Serum In­sti­tute; Pfiz­er teams with Gilead on remde­sivir

By CEO and scion Adar Poonawalla’s estimation, the Serum Institute in India has already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into scaling up the unproven Covid-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford for use in low and middle income countries. It’s meant taking on a risk that other companies, including AstraZeneca, have mitigated with huge amounts of government funding.

Now, for the first time, Poonawalla is getting some outside help. The Gates Foundation has agreed to pay the institute $150 million to supply 100 million vaccines to India and other emerging economies next year, Reuters reported. That includes both the vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the one being developed by Novavax. Those vaccines will be available in 92 countries and be priced at $3 per dose.

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Ab­b­Vie set­tles in­sur­ance fraud suit, agrees to tweak nurse am­bas­sador pro­gram; CStone aims for NSCLC OK with pos­i­tive PhI­II da­ta

AbbVie has resolved a California lawsuit alleging insurance fraud in the promotion of its cash cow Humira, paying $24 million to settle things with the state’s insurance regulator.

The settlement comes almost four years after a whistleblower first reported AbbVie’s practice of deploying registered nurses to visit patients at home or call them by phone to ensure that Humira prescriptions are filled. AbbVie was also charged with providing illegal kickbacks to doctors in an attempt to encourage them to prescribe Humira for a range of anti-inflammatory diseases.

President Trump speaks with members of the media before boarding Marine One (AP Images)

'Oc­to­ber is com­ing,' and every­one still wants to know if a Covid-19 vac­cine will be whisked through the FDA ahead of the elec­tion

Right on the heels of a lengthy assurance from FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn that the agency will not rush through a quick approval for a Covid-19 vaccine, the President of the United States has some thoughts on timing he’d like to share.

In an exchange with Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera on Thursday, President Trump allowed that a vaccine could be ready to roll “sooner than the end of the year, could be much sooner.”

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UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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Alex­ion cre­ates new post for chief di­ver­si­ty of­fi­cer; Bar­ry Greene step­ping down at Al­ny­lam, Yvonne Green­street named as suc­ces­sor

Alexion has carved out a new position for chief diversity officer and filled it with an inside promotion.

Uzair Qadeer will now be responsible for their “diversity, inclusion and belonging” strategy, looking to reshape the biotech’s corporate culture. A veteran of Deloitte and Bristol Myers Squibb, Qadeer was working on executive coaching and helping create the diversity program he now leads.