Boasting in-license distribution model, Chinese EOC Pharma bags $32M series B funding for oncology products
With a newly pocketed $32 million series B, EOC Pharma is looking to bring potential blockbuster oncology drugs to China — products that it will have hand-picked, developed, made and marketed, all on the home turf.
The Shanghai-based biopharma plans to use the funds to advance its lead programs into late-stage development in China with a focus on registration studies. This is a big step in the young company’s efforts to becoming an “integrated” one-stop shop for development, manufacturing and commercialization, CEO Xiaoming Zou told me.
There are currently six drugs in the EOC Pharma’s pipeline, all of which it in-licensed from small or global biotechs outside China. According to Zou, an Amgen and GSK vet, they mostly target the largest oncology indications.
The three leading candidates are entinostat for breast cancer (from Waltham, MA-based Syndax Biotech); fusion protein IMP321, immunotherapy targeting breast cancer tumors after hormone therapy (from Australian Prima Biomed); and gastric cancer drug telatinib (to which EOC Pharma acquired global rights, from Bay Area ACT Biotech).
“This round is really a step for us to get on hopefully a fast track for developing the company and the pipeline, our programs in China,” Zou said. “We see ourselves somewhat differentiated with some pure R&D-based companies — many of them started in China — we are focusing on in-licensing partnership-driven model.”
Founded in 2015, EOC Pharma is a spinoff of Chinese pharmaceutical marketing firm EddingPharm. Serving as chief business officer there gave Zou commercial experience as well as relationships with investors, some of whom, like Sequoia China, were big supporters in this latest round. Another high profile backer in the B round was Shandong state-owned Taikang Industry Development Fund, which Zou describes as an emerging big player in Chinese health care.
EOC Pharma’s business model is reminiscent of Zai Lab — which scored a promising IPO mid-September — and its development continues to reflect the fast-changing regulatory landscape in China. Eventually, EOC Pharma plans to use some of its partner’s European clinical trial data for its Chinese drug application, something that has only been made possible in recent months.
“This probably will last for 18 months, but there are a lot of moving parts right now in China,” Zou told me. “[The regulatory reforms] happened after we kind of have done this round of planning, and so we may end up to be more aggressive in terms of — or on the timeline, maybe shorten the clinical studies. That can move the expense ahead of the schedule.”
The company currently employs around 80 people, split among manufacturing, clinical/regulatory, business development and administration departments. With the new funds, Zou wants to bring in experienced clinical leaders to drive the company to the next level.
And this is all part of a bigger ambition, Zou emphasized.
“This is a very active time in China,” Zou said. “The market will probably go through some consolidation in the near future, and we believe we have a good foundation. We really want this round of financing as a key step for us to get into further growth very soon.”