China’s top mRNA contender is ready to go. And SoftBank just led a cash infusion pushing it over the $1B line
With Moderna and BioNTech offering a model — in the US and Europe, respectively — for how mRNA biotechs can enjoy a meteoric rise to profit and fame with just one successful Covid-19 vaccine, a Chinese player is ready to put itself on the map.
Abogen, which set a record just three months ago with a $720 million Series C, has now raised another $300 million as it prepares to file its vaccine candidate for authorization. Partnered with Walvax and China’s military, ABO-028M first entered clinical testing in the summer of 2020 and is now in Phase III trials in Mexico, Indonesia and Nepal.
The company has kept itself largely secretive since being founded in January 2019 — its website is nearly entirely blank, save for an email address and a two-sentence description of the company. But one key differentiating factor appears to be greater stability of its mRNA vaccine at warm temperatures.
SoftBank Vision Fund and 5Y Capital co-led the new raise, which is being branded a Series C+, and other investors include Chimera Abu Dhabi, Fortune Ocean and Mirae Asset Financial Group.
As BioNTech’s jab, partnered with Fosun on development and distribution, remains in limbo in China, public health officials and regulatory authorities have been talking up the prospects of a rapid approval for a domestic shot.
In an effort to speed up the anticipated rollout, Abogen and Walvax said on Monday they will enlist contract manufacturer GenScript ProBio to produce the plasmids that will go into their commercial batches.
“The pandemic is still raging,” said Brian Min, CEO of GenScript ProBio. “Abogen Biosciences had launched the project since the very beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19.”