China channel feed

Chi­nese rare dis­ease play­er inks first deal around nar­colep­sy drug Wak­ix af­ter grab­bing $80M to build an ecosys­tem

Two months ago, the narcolepsy therapy Wakix propelled Harmony Biosciences to a $128 million debut on Nasdaq. Now, the same drug is serving as the foundation for a Chinese biotech looking to pioneer a rare disease platform in the country.

Citrine Medicine — which closed $80 million in Series A funding in July — was incubated by F-Prime and Eight Roads, two VC funds affiliated with Fidelity Investments, and Vivo Capital. The trio saw an opening in China to replicate in the vibrant orphan drug landscape in the US and, to a lesser extent, Europe.

The dis­rup­tors at EQRx have their eyes on the PD-(L)1 mar­ket — tee­ing up $150M cash to grab 2 back­bone ther­a­pies from Chi­na

EQRx is paying top dollar to bring a pair of PD-(L)1 drugs into its portfolio of fast-follow therapies, offering $150 million upfront in what could shape up to be a $1.3 billion alliance with China’s CStone.

As early as 2017 Celgene had bet on a made-in-China PD-1 via its pact with BeiGene, quickly followed by Arcus as the second checkpoint wave was looming; more recently Eli Lilly imported longtime partner Innovent’s PD-1 in a $1 billion deal. All are diving into a space now dominated by Merck’s Keytruda franchise, where six other players are trying to catch up by carving out their own niches — and more are on their way to tap into the various I/O pairings anchored by a PD-(L)1. But none so far has quite shared EQRx’s explicit mission to disrupt the multibillion-dollar market by offering a lower cost option.

Chi­nese in­vestors wa­ger $105M on an IPO-bound biotech look­ing to push RNAi as main­stream can­cer ther­a­py

Shortly after Sirnaomics brought in a $47 million Series C for its small interfering RNA pipeline last year, Patrick Lu — the founder, president and CEO — was asked to outline the scientific advances that will be necessary to make better drugs out of RNA tech.

“The next step in the evolution of RNAi as a leading therapeutic will be the ability to safely target organs outside the liver such as lung, brain, etc,” he had offered. “This will revolutionize disease treatments if the industry can demonstrate similar data sets for non-liver targets as we have seen in liver-based diseases.”

Out to pi­o­neer gene edit­ing in Chi­na, Edi­Gene bags $67M to be­gin clin­i­cal test­ing for β-tha­lassemia ther­a­py, uni­ver­sal CAR-T

A gene editing player hailing from Beijing has clinched $67 million to steer two of its lead candidates into the clinic — and to prove itself as a CRISPR pioneer in China.

EdiGene gathered the Series B from a slate of top-tier Chinese investors, including 3H Health Investment (who led the round), Sequoia Capital China, Alwin Capital and Kunlun Capital. Previous backers, including IDG Capital, Lilly Asia Venture, Huagai Capital and Green Pine Capital Partners, also participated.

How hot is Hong Kong's biotech IPO mar­ket? Two biotechs just raised $800M to­tal

A pair of Chinese biotechs have collectively hauled in close to $800 million upon their public debuts in Hong Kong, tucking two hefty entrants to the steady stream of HKEX IPOs. Everest Medicines raised $423 million to bankroll its pipeline of in-licensed drugs, while Genor Biopharma is pouring its $371 million proceeds into the cancer and autoimmune pipeline.

Both had closed megarounds in June just before applying for a listing, highlighting the global nature of the current biotech boom. Hillhouse played a big role in both crossover financings, as Everest reaped $310 million and Genor grabbed $160 million.

Pfiz­er in­fus­es $200M in­to CStone, scor­ing a sec­ond PD-L1 and out­lin­ing a sprawl­ing Chi­na pact

Pfizer has engineered a wide-ranging China pact with CStone, with an initial $200 million investment and a license to the late-stage PD-L1 drug to get things started.

The US giant now claims 9.90% of CStone’s shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange, rights to commercialize sugemalimab in mainland China, as well as plans to co-develop cancer drugs — either in its own pipeline or in-licensed from other drugmakers — in the Chinese market. It’s also on the hook for $280 million in milestones for the PD-L1 program alone, in addition to royalties.

Soft­Bank, Morn­ing­side help put US-Chi­na AI play­er on the map with $318M bet

Before Tencent made its first foray into AI-aided drug discovery this July, the Chinese tech giant had bought itself a line into the burgeoning field.

Tencent had backed a US-China AI startup by the name of XtalPi late 2015, and kept following up through two $15 million and $46 million rounds through 2018. Now SoftBank, Morningside and the venture arm of a Chinese government-owned insurance group are all following its lead, headlining a Series C that brings in a whopping $318.8 million.

Zai Lab hauls in $761M from Hong Kong IPO to push Ze­ju­la, more bud­ding can­di­dates in Chi­na — re­port

Zai Lab is set to net more than $761 million from its secondary listing in Hong Kong after pricing the IPO at $72.51 (HKD$562) — just a hair below its Nasdaq closing price on Monday, Bloomberg and Nikkei Asian Review reported.

A pioneer in bringing Western drugs to China, co-founder and CEO Samantha Du has more than tripled Zai Lab’s market cap in the three years it’s been public in the US. The HKEX listing is designed to fund R&D and commercialization for the current portfolio while fueling new in-licensing pacts, the biotech wrote in a filing.

Frank Zhang (AP Images)

Rocked by cus­toms in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Leg­end's CFO takes over as CEO Frank Zhang placed un­der house ar­rest

When Frank Zhang stepped down from GenScript — the contract research group he’s run for 18 years — to take up the CEO post at its CAR-T focused spinout Legend Biotech, he assured analysts that he was in for the long haul.

Just 49 days later, though, he’s been forced to hand back the title.

In a dramatic turn of events, Legend disclosed that Zhang is under house arrest in China as part of a customs investigation involving GenScript. While he remains the chairman, CFO Ying Huang has been tapped to double as interim CEO.

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Li Ning (Junshi)

A 'break­through' PD-1? From Chi­na? FDA says why not for rare can­cer

PD-(L)1 inhibitors may be the standard of care and the cornerstone therapy for a number of cancers, but in other niches, the FDA is still happy to consider them a breakthrough.

Late Thursday — and early Friday in China — regulators granted the breakthrough designation to Junshi Biosciences. It’s a first for an anti-PD-1 from China, said the Shanghai-based, Hong Kong-listed biotech, which also won the domestic race by nabbing the first Chinese checkpoint OK back in December 2018.