China biotech startup InventisBio bags a $19M round for early-stage R&D
The flow of venture cash in and out of China’s biotech scene includes a new $19 million round today for Shanghai-based InventisBio, which has been lining up a slate of cancer therapies for Phase I development.
Merck vet and company founder Yaolin Wang tells me that he left the global pharma giant in 2015 to start the company, which has been operating as a virtual outfit with 7 staffers and a crew of support staff at WuXi and other CROs in the country.
He describes their lead effort as a third-generation lung cancer drug targeting EGFR T790M mutations. The second drug is aimed at gout, lowering uric acid in the blood, and then there are two more cancer programs, with plans to partner on a PD-1 therapy at some near point.
“We started from scratch,” the founder tells me, using seed money followed by an A round, totaling $11 million. OrbiMed Asia Partners joined Lilly Asia Ventures on the latest round.
As InventisBio has made progress over the last two years, he adds, so has China’s FDA.
“I think in the past few months we’ve seen a sea change in China,” says Yaolin Wang, with a much greater commitment to overhauling the way new IND applications are sanctioned.
“If you asked me two years ago,” agreed Jonathan Wang, the senior managing director of OrbiMed Asia and an investor in InventisBio, “I would say it would take one to 2 years to guide to IND approval. Six months ago: 6 to 12 months to get approval. The new goal for the FDA is about 60 to 90 days.”
The company recently added a team of chemists to the virtual management group, and Yaolin Wang says he would like to move from Phase I cancer studies directly into pivotal trials, looking for the first approval in two to three years — not unheard of but certainly ambitious. And in the meantime, he says, he’s not just developing drugs for China. He’s planning on future OKs in other regions of the globe, perhaps with a partner.
While the flow of biotech capital has been growing over the last few years, Yaolin Wang doesn’t expect the good times to simply roll on
“It’s just like year 2000,” he says. “Most investors have not experienced the big loss; over time it’s going to become more sober.”
But he hopes to see his company thrive, with enough cash to stock up on the most precious commodity in biotech: solid clinical data.