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.

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Hal Barron, GSK via YouTube

What does $29B buy you in Big Phar­ma? In Glax­o­SmithK­line’s case, a whole lot of un­com­fort­able ques­tions about the pipeline

Talk about your bad timing.

A little over a week ago, GSK R&D chief Hal Barron marked his third anniversary at the research helm by taking a turn at the virtual podium during JP Morgan to make the case that he and his team had built a valuable late-stage pipeline capable of churning out more than 10 blockbusters in the next 5 years.

And then, just days later, one of the cancer drugs he bet big on as a top prospect — bintrafusp, partnered with Merck KGaA — failed its first pivotal test in non-small cell lung cancer.

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Eli Lil­ly's an­ti­body cuts risk of Covid-19 by up to 80% among the most vul­ner­a­ble — but will it have a place next to vac­cines?

Eli Lilly says bamlanivimab lowered the risk of contracting symptomatic Covid-19 in a first-of-its-kind trial involving nursing home residents and staff, paving the way for a new option to protect against the virus.

But how big of an impact it might have, and what role it will play, at a time vaccines are being rolled out to the exact population it is targeting still remains unclear.

Among 965 participants in the study — all of whom tested negative for the coronavirus at baseline — the number of symptomatic cases reported in the bamlanivimab arm was 57% lower than that in the placebo arm (odds ratio 0.43, p=0.00021). In addition to that primary endpoint, all secondary endpoints reached statistical significance.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

End­points poll: Janet Wood­cock takes the (in­ter­im) helm at the FDA. And a large ma­jor­i­ty of our read­ers want her to stay there

It’s official: Janet Woodcock is now the acting chief of the FDA.

And — according to an Endpoints poll — most industry readers would like her to stay there, although a significant minority is strongly opposed.

To recap: Joe Biden is reportedly choosing between Woodcock and former deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein as his nominee for the permanent position. Given their respective track records, the decision is set to determine the agency’s lodestar for years to come.

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What’s next for End­points — and how to sup­port our in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma news mis­sion

The firehose of biopharma news is gushing these days.

That’s why broader and deeper is the theme for 2021 at Endpoints. You can expect new coverage outside our core R&D focus, with deeper reporting in some key areas. When John Carroll and I launched Endpoints nearly five years ago, we were wading in waist-high waters. Now we’re a team of 25 full-time staffers (and growing) with plans to cover the flood of biopharma news, Endpoints-style.

Charlie Fuchs, Roche and Genentech global head of product development for oncology and hematology (Yale Cancer Center)

Yale can­cer spe­cial­ist Char­lie Fuchs tapped as new glob­al de­vel­op­ment chief for Roche/Genen­tech

Roche and their big sub Genentech have just recruited a top cancer specialist at Yale to head up global product development in oncology and hematology.

I just got word that the pharma giant, which leads one of the most active cancer research operations in the world, recruited Charlie Fuchs, director of the Yale Cancer Center and physician-in-chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital. He’ll join the global operation March 1 and will be based in South San Francisco, where Genentech is based.

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Jonathan Weissman (MIT)

Can a new CRISPR tech­nique un­lock the se­crets of how can­cer spreads?

Jonathan Weissman’s team watched the cancer cells spread across the doomed mouse. Engineered with a bioluminescent enzyme, they appeared in scans first as a small navy blue diamond lodged near the heart; a week later, as a triangle splayed across the mouse’s upper body, with streaks of green and two distinct bright red hubs of activity. By day 54, the mouse resembled a lava lamp.

The images would have been familiar to any cancer biologist, but they didn’t actually tell you much about what was going on: why the cancer was metastasizing or which cells were responsible. For that, Weissman’s team had designed a new tool. Inside the original navy blue diamond, they had engineered the microbiological equivalent of an airplane’s black box — a “molecular recorder” that, after the mouse’s death, could allow them to extract the cells and wind back intimate footage of a single cancer’s ascent.

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Glax­o­SmithK­line scraps a LAG3 study, mark­ing an­oth­er fail­ure for the pipeline af­ter a crit­i­cal set­back

Another gap has appeared in GlaxoSmithKline’s pipeline.

Friday morning the Australian biotech Immutep put out word that Hal Barron’s R&D group at GSK had decided to scrap a Phase II proof-of-concept study in ulcerative colitis for their anti-LAG3 therapy GSK2831781. According to the biotech, the program didn’t survive an interim review.

The trial was stopped by GSK based on the assessment of clinical data as part of a planned interim analysis conducted in consultation with the trial’s Data Review Committee. GSK is conducting further reporting, assessment and analyses of the efficacy and safety data and evaluating the biology to determine next steps for the GSK2831781 development program.

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Covid-19 roundup: Eu­rope to seek clar­i­fi­ca­tion on Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech de­lays; J&J pre­dicts 100M dos­es for US by April

With reports over slowed distribution of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and threats of lawsuits dangling, the European Commission is planning to ask the company for a clarification over delivery timelines.

A spokesman for the EU’s executive branch made the comments early Friday, according to a Reuters report. Pfizer and the Commission had earlier said that there would be no more slowdowns next week as it continues to alter a manufacturing site in Belgium to ramp up production.