Here’s another trend to pay close attention to in 2017: Chinese biotechs are increasingly able to tap into local, state-backed venture syndicates for some big rounds aimed at backing ambitious clinical development programs.
Today we’re offering two examples. The first is Ascentage Pharma, a 7-year-old biotech focused on cancer as well as an unusual partnership with Arch-backed Unity on aging. The Jiangsu, China-based company raised about $72 million for clinical work, with the Future Industry Investment Fund under China’s State Development & Investment Corporation playing a key role. The second is Ascletis, which turned to a group of Chinese investors for its $100 million Series B.
The FIIF also took a lead role in the $260 million megaround that was put together for Innovent Biologics last fall. Joining FIIF on the Ascentage bet is Shiyu Capital, Hidragon Capital and Founder KIP Capital, along with the existing investors Yuanming Capital, Oriza Venture Fund and Efung Capital.
Ascentage’s most advanced work is on apoptosis, with programs aimed at proteins that include Bcl-2/Bcl-xL, IAP and MDM2-p53. The biotech has three programs in Phase I or II and another six lining up for the clinic.
Ascentage attracted the attention of Unity, which considers its cancer research as a key to finding senolytic drugs that can selectively clear senescent, or aging, cells from the body. These cells tend to cluster in people much like dust in the attic, and this very early-stage field believes that a targeted mop-up could significantly extend a good life.
Ascletis, meanwhile, is run by Jinzi Wu, who’s been focused on developing new drugs for liver diseases. The biotech plans to use the cash raise to back its market launch of a hep C combo of Danoprevir (ASC08) and Ravidasvir (ASC16). C-Bridge Capital led their round, joined by a number of new investors including QianHai Equity Investment FOF, FOCUS Media Jiangnanchun Foundation, WTT Investment, together with the current investors Goldman Sachs andTasly Pharmaceutical.
Georgetown University-educated Dajun Yang, who helped launch Ascentage in 2009 after a stint at Hong Kong-based Morningside, noted:
The capital raised will be invaluable in enabling us to progress the clinical development of our pipeline especially in the United States and to accelerate our manufacturing site construction in Suzhou.
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