Piaoyang Sun (ALAMY)

Chi­na’s fourth rich­est man takes a back seat at the top drug­mak­er he built

Af­ter spend­ing the past 30 years trans­form­ing Jiang­su Hen­grui Med­i­cines from just an­oth­er man­u­fac­tur­er of dirt cheap over-the-counter pills to a top 25 glob­al bio­phar­ma play­er, Piaoyang Sun is tak­ing a step back.

The bil­lion­aire is hand­ing over the chair­man role to Zhou Yun­shu, his right-hand man and pres­i­dent of the com­pa­ny, Hen­grui said in a state­ment. But Sun will stay on the board and con­tin­ue to lead the strat­e­gy com­mit­tee.

As the chair­man of the par­ent com­pa­ny, Sun al­so re­mains the biggest share­hold­er of Hen­grui.

With a for­tune of $25.8 bil­lion, Sun was ranked the fourth rich­est man in Chi­na on Forbes’ 2019 list. He shared the spot and the wealth with Hui­juan Zhong, his wife and fel­low phar­ma ty­coon: Zhong chairs Han­soh Phar­ma, which raised $1 bil­lion in its Hong Kong IPO last sum­mer.

Like Han­soh, Hen­grui boasts of a stream of rev­enue from its gener­ic drugs — which would have been con­sid­ered “new” in Chi­na three decades ago when the in­dus­try was bare­ly able to keep up with ba­sic man­u­fac­tur­ing stan­dards. In 1990, at age 32, Sun took over one such com­pa­ny then known as Lianyun­gang.

“Back then the plant was filled with com­mon drugs like spi­ramycin and ery­thromycin which cost 1 cent per pill and earned us a tenth of that,” Sun re­flect­ed at a 2019 con­fer­ence.

He be­gan squeez­ing his bud­get for more so­phis­ti­cat­ed me-too drug R&D and the rest is his­to­ry.

Once busi­ness got bet­ter, in 1997 (the new­ly rechris­tened) Hen­grui spent RMB$2.5 mil­lion on new drugs. In 2001 we went pub­lic and raised RMB$480 mil­lion, RMB$200 mil­lion of which I in­vest­ed on a re­search fa­cil­i­ty in Shang­hai. We be­gan to re­cruit med­i­c­i­nal chemists in 2002. Now we are work­ing on dozens of in­no­v­a­tive drugs in our pipeline.

That sec­ond tran­si­tion in­to nov­el drug de­vel­op­ment at­tract­ed the at­ten­tion of In­cyte, which in 2015 hand­ed over $25 mil­lion up­front for its home­grown PD-1 in­hibitor. While Hen­grui didn’t dis­ap­point in bring­ing one of the first do­mes­tic biotechs to score Chi­nese ap­proval for a check­point — cam­re­lizum­ab was the third, to be pre­cise — In­cyte turned to a new PD-1 part­ner af­ter find­ing that Hen­grui’s drug was tied to a side ef­fect. Though these small, non-can­cer­ous vas­cu­lar skin growths were mild, it made cam­re­lizum­ab un­ap­peal­ing in a high­ly com­pet­i­tive field.

Hen­grui forged ahead with com­mer­cial­iza­tion, mar­ket­ing the ther­a­py to pa­tients with third-line clas­si­cal Hodgkin’s lym­phoma at a rel­a­tive­ly high stick­er price of RMB$19,800 (around $2800) but an ag­gres­sive dis­count for low-in­come pa­tients.

Can­cer re­mains its main in­ter­est, with a HER2-tar­get­ed ty­ro­sine ki­nase in­hibitor, a c-MET an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate, a PD-L1 drug and an IDO in­hibitor among its ex­per­i­men­tal as­sets. Then there’s a GLP-1 pep­tide for type 2 di­a­betes and an an­ti-IL-17A an­ti­body for pso­ri­a­sis — both hit­ting com­mon tar­gets with es­tab­lished drugs in the glob­al mar­ket.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio Therapeutics CEO

An­ti­body leg­end Till­man Gern­gross is el­bow­ing his way in­to the Covid-19 R&D cru­sade: 'I don’t see this end­ing any­time soon'

One of the most influential — and outspoken — scientists at work in the field of antibody discovery is jumping into the frenzied race to create new therapeutics to treat and prevent Covid-19. And he’s operating with the conviction that the current outbreak now once again spreading like wildfire will create plenty of demand for what he has in mind.

Dartmouth professor and Adimab CEO Tillman Gerngross tells me he’s raised $50 million from a group of close VCs to spin out a new company — Adagio Therapeutics — with a full C-suite team assembled to hire up a staff and keep rolling toward the clinic.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (Moderna via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: NI­AID and Mod­er­na spell out a 'ro­bust' im­mune re­sponse in PhI coro­n­avirus vac­cine test — but big ques­tions re­main to be an­swered

The NIAID and Moderna have spelled out positive Phase I safety and efficacy data for their Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273 — highlighting the first full, clear sketch of evidence that back-to-back jabs at the dose selected for Phase III routinely produced a swarm of antibodies to the virus that exceeded levels seen in convalescent patients — typically in multiples indicating a protective response.

Moderna execs say plainly that this first stage of research produced exactly the kind of efficacy they hoped to see in humans, with a manageable safety profile.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 85,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Source: Shutterstock

Who are the women blaz­ing trails in bio­phar­ma R&D and lead­ing the fight against Covid-19? Nom­i­nate them for End­points' spe­cial re­port

One of the many inequalities the pandemic has laid bare is the gender imbalance in biomedical research. A paper examining Covid-19 research authorship wondered out loud: Where are the women?

It’s a question that echoes beyond our current times. In the biopharma world, not only are women under-represented in R&D roles (particularly at higher levels), their achievements and talents could also be undermined by stereotypes and norms of leadership styles. The problem is even more dire for women of color.

Trans­port Sim­u­la­tion Test­ing for Your Ther­a­py is the Best Way to As­sure FDA Ex­pe­dit­ed Pro­gram Ap­proval

Modality Solutions is an ISO:9001-registered biopharmaceutical cold chain engineering firm with unique transport simulation capabilities that support accelerated regulatory approval for biologics and advanced therapeutic medicinal products (ATMP). Our expertise combines traditional validation engineering approaches with regulatory knowledge into a methodology tailored for the life sciences industry. We provide insight and execution for the challenges faced in your cold chain logistics network.

GSK’s Shin­grix leader Guil­laume Pfe­fer has jumped on board Flag­ship to helm a biotech hy­brid as Afeyan’s lat­est CEO-part­ner

After spending 4 years in a senior post with GlaxoSmithKline’s star team positioning Shingrix for a blockbuster approval, Guillaume Pfefer is headed back to the biotech world — in style.

Pfefer has signed on to join Noubar Afeyan’s busy group of partners at Flagship, and he’s taking the helm of an upstart — which today is being merged with another Flagship startup — with some grand plans of its own. The announcement this morning notes that Pfefer will run Kintai Therapeutics, one of the grads of the Flagship labs.

Norbert Bischofberger, Kronos CEO

Gilead­'s ex-R&D chief Bischof­berg­er heads back to the biotech gi­ant to pick up a pair of late-stage drugs that had been put aside

Norbert Bischofberger knows entospletinib well.

Back during his long, blockbuster run as head of R&D at Gilead, researchers had once held some high hopes for this drug. But to make it work, he and the team felt it would need a new companion diagnostic to identify patients. There was talk of a combo approach to give it more punch. But the market was small, making them wonder if it would be worth going through a lengthy development cycle to get it through a pivotal.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 85,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci (AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Fau­ci fires back at White House cam­paign to un­der­mine him

Anthony Fauci has called the White House campaign to discredit him “a bit bizarre” and said he stands by his previous statements, even if he has since changed his views.

The NIAID chief — who has received an outpouring of support following reports that the Trump administration has sent a document akin to opposition research to multiple news outlets — spoke with his usual candor in interviews with The Atlantic.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 85,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

John Furey, Imvax CEO

A neu­ro­sur­geon spent the past 30 years de­vel­op­ing a neoanti­gen tu­mor vac­cine. Now he has $112M for a piv­otal test

As a neurosurgeon, David Andrews knew there wasn’t much he could do for his glioma patients after resecting — rarely fully — their tumor. Even with the best treatment and care available, median overall survival is just somewhere between 14 and 16 months.

Then in the 1990s, his mentor at Thomas Jefferson University introduced him to Renato Baserga, a pathologist who had been studying the effect of using antisense oligonucleotide to knock out the insulin-like growth factor type 1 receptor in cancers. As IGF-R1 drives tumor growth and metastasis, the preclinical reasoning went, implanting a molecule targeting the receptor together with the tumor material near lymph nodes can slow down the spread of the cancer.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 85,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

The $1B Mer­ck-Bay­er drug that di­vid­ed car­di­ol­o­gists in March gets pri­or­i­ty re­view

Three months after Merck published in the New England Journal of Medicine data that left doctors and investors divided over just how well its experimental heart drug worked, the FDA has handed that drug priority review. A decision is now due by January 20, 2021.

Merck first announced the drug, known as vericiguat, as a Phase III success last November. In 2016, Merck had paid $1 billion upfront for US rights to the Bayer-developed drug. Early projections foresaw a few hundred million a year in sales, but the unspecified late-stage success raised the possibility for far more. After all, Novartis’s flagship heart drug, Entresto, was earning $1.7 billion per year and was expected to reach up to $4 billion in annual sales.