Chi­na's Foun­tain Med­ical scores $62M as de­mand for CRO ser­vices surges

Cir­ca 2016, Chi­na se­cured its sta­tus as the sec­ond-biggest mar­ket for pre­scrip­tion drugs. The soar­ing de­mand for med­i­cines has fu­eled the re­turn of key sci­en­tif­ic tal­ent, the ap­petite for spend­ing on drug re­search and de­vel­op­ment, while Chi­na’s cost ad­van­tage has lured multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mak­ers to set up R&D shops in the re­gion and stim­u­lat­ed the do­mes­tic CRO in­dus­try. In 2007, a for­mer Quin­tiles (now IQVIA) ex­ec­u­tive set up his own CRO in Chi­na — Foun­tain Med­ical De­vel­op­ment Lim­it­ed (FMD) — and on Fri­day, the com­pa­ny un­veiled a $62 mil­lion Se­ries D round of fi­nanc­ing.

Dan Zhang

The com­pa­ny, set up by Dan Zhang, orig­i­nal­ly tar­get­ed a niche mar­ket that has been ne­glect­ed by both glob­al and lo­cal CROs. Glob­al CROs cater large­ly to multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mak­ers, as lo­cal phar­ma play­ers are of­ten priced out of their ser­vices. Mean­while, do­mes­tic CROs fo­cus on serv­ing lo­cal drug de­vel­op­ers, since they are not usu­al­ly equipped with the re­sources re­quired to con­duct in­ter­na­tion­al mul­ti­cen­ter tri­als.

FMD was cre­at­ed to “an­swer the needs of in­no­v­a­tive, sin­gle com­pound com­pa­nies en­ter­ing the clin­i­cal stage. They are main­ly lo­cal and in­ter­na­tion­al start-ups that are not ful­ly es­tab­lished yet so most of their fi­nanc­ing comes from the gov­ern­ment or grants. Nor­mal­ly, they would be look­ing to start Phase I clin­i­cal tri­als,” Zhang said in an in­ter­view ear­li­er this year with C-suite pub­li­ca­tion PharmaBoard­room.

The CRO in­dus­try in Chi­na — which in­cludes glob­al play­ers such as IQVIA, Lab­Corp and Parex­el and do­mes­tic out­fits in­clud­ing Wuxi AppTec, Phar­maron, and Mei­di­cilon — was worth about $9.7 bil­lion last year, ac­cord­ing to da­ta com­piled by mar­ket re­search com­pa­ny Re­portLink­er, which es­ti­mates that num­ber will climb to rough­ly $34.3 bil­lion by 2025.

In 2017, Chi­na joined the In­ter­na­tion­al Coun­cil for Har­mo­niza­tion of Tech­ni­cal Re­quire­ments for Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals for Hu­man Use (ICH), an or­ga­ni­za­tion that brings to­geth­er reg­u­la­tors of the bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try glob­al­ly to as­sess the sci­en­tif­ic and tech­ni­cal as­pects of drug de­vel­op­ment.

With the stan­dard­iza­tion of clin­i­cal re­search in Chi­na through ICH, FMD is now fo­cused on at­tract­ing bio­phar­ma play­ers — in­clud­ing the small­er sin­gle-com­pound biotechs from the Unit­ed States and Eu­rope who pre­vi­ous­ly would have out-li­censed their prod­ucts to multi­na­tion­al phar­ma com­pa­nies or to lo­cal Chi­nese com­pa­nies — to Chi­na.

The new in­jec­tion of funds will en­able “Foun­tain Med­ical to ex­pand and im­prove our ser­vice of­fer­ings to ex­ist­ing glob­al clients, and bet­ter cater to the needs of Chi­nese phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies with glob­al as­pi­ra­tions as well as multi­na­tion­al com­pa­nies with Chi­na as­pi­ra­tions,” Zhang said in a state­ment on Fri­day.

This round of fi­nanc­ing for FMD — which has more than 1,700 em­ploy­ees world­wide cov­er­ing 55 cities in Chi­na, as well as ma­jor de­liv­ery cen­ters across the Unit­ed States, Eu­ropeJapanIn­dia, and the Philip­pines — was led by Gold­man Sachs, with Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures as co-in­vestor.

Be­fore co-found­ing FMD, Zhang worked with Sig­ma-Tau Re­search as well as Quin­tiles. He is a mem­ber of the grant re­view com­mit­tee for the Na­tion­al Drug De­vel­op­ment Fund of Chi­na and serves as a con­sul­tant for the Na­tion­al Med­ical Prod­ucts Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NM­PA). He is al­so a mem­ber of the ICH E19 Ex­pert Work­ing Group.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Justin Klee (L) and Joshua Cohen, Amylyx co-CEOs (Cody O'Loughlin/The New York Times; courtesy Amylyx)

Ad­vo­cates, ex­perts cry foul over Amy­lyx's new ALS drug, cit­ing is­sues with price, PhI­II com­mit­ment

Not 24 hours after earning the first ALS drug approval in five years, Amylyx Pharmaceuticals’ Relyvrio is already drawing scrutiny. And it’s coming from multiple fronts.

In an investor call Friday morning, Amylyx revealed that it would charge about $158,000 per year, a price point that immediately drew backlash from ALS advocates and some outside observers. The cost reveal had been highly anticipated in the immediate hours after Thursday evening’s approval, though Amylyx only teased Relyvrio would cost less than previously approved drugs.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

Can a smart­phone app de­tect Covid? Pfiz­er throws down $116M to find out

What can a cough say about a patient’s illness? Quite a bit, according to ResApp Health — and Pfizer’s listening.

The pharma giant is shelling out about $116 million ($179 million AUD) to scoop up the University of Queensland spinout and its smartphone technology that promises to diagnose Covid and other respiratory illnesses based on cough and breathing sounds, the university announced last week.

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Big Phar­ma heavy­weights seek tweaks to FDA's clin­i­cal out­come as­sess­ment guid­ance

Pfizer, GSK, Janssen, Regeneron, Boehringer Ingelheim and at least a half dozen other companies are calling on the FDA to provide significantly more clarity in its draft guidance from this summer on clinical outcome assessments, which are a type of patient experience.

The draft is the third in a series of four patient-focused drug development guidance documents that the FDA had to create as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, and they describe how stakeholders (patients, caregivers, researchers, medical product developers and others) can collect and submit patient experience data and other relevant information for medical product development and regulatory decision-making.

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Rob Etherington, Clene CEO

Star­tup's gold nanocrys­tal ALS drug flops a PhII tri­al, a re­minder of the dis­ease's ob­sta­cles de­spite Amy­lyx OK

Despite the FDA approving an ALS drug for the first time in five years last week, the disease continues to fluster researchers, and another biotech is feeling the pain of a mid-stage failure.

Clene Nanomedicine reported early Monday that its ALS program, which uses gold nanocrystals to try to catalyze intracellular reactions, did not achieve its Phase II primary or secondary endpoints. And in a press release, the company noted for the first time that it’s speaking with “potential strategic partners” about the program — language that typically indicates a biotech is preparing to sell off an asset.

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Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna

Mod­er­na re­fused to dis­close mR­NA vac­cine tech­nol­o­gy to Chi­na — re­port

Moderna has been protective of the intellectual property surrounding its vaccine, including being willing to go to court and accusing other companies of patent infringement. Now the most recent update puts a magnifying glass on Moderna’s dealings with China.

Per a report from the Financial Times over the weekend, China asked Moderna to hand over the intellectual property behind its megablockbuster vaccine known as Spikevax. Citing people “familiar with the matter,” the report notes that the mRNA biotech was in negotiations with China in 2020 and 2021 to sell its product in the world’s most populous country.

Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Land­mark Amy­lyx OK spurs de­bate; Some... pos­i­tive? Alzheimer's da­ta; Can­cer tri­al bot­tle­neck; Sanofi's CRISPR bet; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

After brief stops in Paris and Boston, John Carroll and the Endpoints crew are staying on the road in October with their return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London. The hybrid event fireside chats and panels on mRNA, oncology and the crazy public market. We hope you can join him there.

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