The era of immuno-oncology combos has arrived, and China’s going to play a big role — or so says the backers of CStone Pharmaceuticals, a fast-growing Chinese I/O player that just clinched $260 million from a slate of marquee Asian investors.
Described by the company as the largest Series B funding in the history of the Chinese biopharma industry, the round featured GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, in the lead role. It’s joined by new investors Sequoia China, Yunfeng Capital, Arch Venture Partners and more. Existing investors also chipped in; notably, Ge Li’s WuXi Healthcare Ventures had been involved since the beginning.
“We appreciate the recognition and support from top domestic and overseas investors, which enabled our Series B financing to be completed in merely two months,” CEO Frank Jiang said in a statement. “This round of financing is critical for CStone’s current and near-term growth.”
CStone made a splash in China when it launched with a $140 million Series A back in 2016 and appointed Sanofi exec Jiang to the helm. Before jumping to the Suzhou-based biotech, Jiang was the French drugmaker’s head of Asia-Pacific R&D, overseeing clinical activities from Phase I to IV.
And it’s keen on keeping the momentum. With more than 10 assets in the pipeline, CStone is currently putting its lead PD-L1 drug through a Phase I dose escalation study and, in January, filed three INDs for its other cancer therapy candidates, which target CTLA-4, PD-1 and MEK respectively. Execs made it clear that they were going after the frontrunners in each field, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy, Merck’s Keytruda and Novartis’ Mekinist.
Its latest infusion of cash will help drive all of that forward, with a special focus on CS1001, the PD-L1 monoclonal antibody.
The company — which is led by a group of seasoned execs from the likes of Merck and BeiGene — also indicated they will expand their pipeline through in-house R&D and partnerships. Another round of recruiting is also in sight.
“We are confident in the long-term growth potential of China’s biopharmaceutical industry and CStone’s leading position in the field of immuno-oncology,” said Choo Yong Cheen of GIC.
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