Ex-Celgene exec steers his biotech startup to Hong Kong IPO as potential cancer drug launch looms
Jay Mei remembers the exact date he first met BeiGene CEO John Oyler.
It was May 14, 2016, and Mei — then an executive director of clinical development at Celgene — accompanied CEO Mark Alles on a trip from New Jersey to Beijing. The meeting cemented more than just Celgene’s groundbreaking partnership with BeiGene, in which the China-based biotech offered its PD-1 inhibitor in exchange for Celgene’s commercial operation in the country.
For Mei, it also solidified his conviction that in addition to overseas and local drugmakers, the time was ripe for a third kind of company: a hybrid biotech that blends multinational corporate culture with a deep understanding of China.
Within a year he’d launch his own startup in Shanghai, with a foundational licensing deal and financing from Celgene. Two more rounds totaling $141 million later, with Celgene now part of Bristol Myers Squibb and Alles now sitting on the board, Antengene is shooting for an IPO in Hong Kong (rather than Nasdaq, an option that Mei said was equally likely back in 2018).
The application comes just three days after the biotech announced that Chinese regulators have cleared the IND for a Phase II trial of ATG-008, or onatasertib, oral dual mTORC1/2 inhibitor from Celgene. Aside from monotherapy trials, Antengene is also doing combination studies with PD-1 in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma and advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
But the biggest looming decision has to do with selinexor, which Karyopharm has steered to approvals in the US for relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma and R/R diffuse large B cell lymphoma.
Known as ATG-010 in the Antengene pipeline, the drug is in registrational Phase II studies for those exact two indications. It’s also being tested in patients with R/R T cell lymphoma, NK/T cell lymphoma and KRAS-mutant NSCLC. An NDA submission is slated by 2021.
Antengene licensed two other SINE compounds — selective inhibitor of nuclear export — plus a PAK4/NAMPT inhibitor from Karyopharm. Both eltanexor and verdinexor are in Phase I/II trials now, while ATG-019 is in Phase I.
Then there’s ATG-017, the most advanced molecule from a deal inked with AstraZeneca last November around ERK 1/2 inhibitors. If the Phase I and subsequent clinical program pan out, Antengene is on the hook for $294 million in total.
The rest of the pipeline (which consists of 12 cancer drugs total) is all discovered in-house, hitting some up-and-coming targets such as Claudin 18.2 and KRAS G12C befitting Mei’s motto to never do me-too or me-better drugs.
For all that work, though, Antengene is keeping a lean team of 90, half of which are involved in R&D. The majority is based in Shanghai, Beijing and Shaoxing.
“In anticipation of the launch of ATG-010 (selinexor), we plan to further expand our commercialization team to have 100 full time employees by the end of 2021,” the company wrote.
It’s also building a 16,300 square-meter manufacturing site in Shaoxing, to be online around 2022.
Prior to the public float, CEO Mei holds the largest chunk of the stock at 35%. Qiming and Boyu, the respective leaders of the Series A and B, controls 7.82% and 12.89%. Other investors include FountainVest, Celgene and WuXi.