Eyeing commercialization, a Shanghai-based CAR-T startup nabs a $186M megaround
Three years after its last financing and with six programs now in the clinic, Shanghai-based CARsgen therapeutics has raised $186 million to push forward a broad platform of CAR-T therapies for liquid and solid tumors.
The Series C mega-round drew from both marquee and lesser-known regional investors, with the well-heeled Chinese private equity firm Loyal Valley Capital leading the raise and Lilly Asia Ventures, Shiyu Capital, and Summer Capital chipping in. The company will use that cash in part to transition, advancing trials on three continents and laying the basis for an eventual commercial launch, founder and CEO Zonghai Li said in a statement.
Loyal Valley Capital managing director Roy (Ronggang) Xie praised the pipeline’s broadness and said the round could help CARsgen “achieve market approval of its leading assets.”
Founded in 2014, at the height of the CAR-T hype, CARsgen first made a mark at ASH in 2018, when they showed off data for their CAR-T that targeted BCMA — the same cell therapy indication where J&J-partnered Legend Biotech would make a huge splash the following year and where bluebird and Bristol Myers Squibb now await an FDA decision. The company reported 100% response rate in 14 patients, with 11 achieving what they deemed to be either a “very good response” or a complete remission.
Full data released last November showed 21 responses in 24 patients, with five showing complete responses and 14 showing stringent complete responses. The results helped earn CARsgen a Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy designation.
That year, they also launched a Phase I US trial for the therapy, part of a broad expansion of their clinical pipeline. Although most of the new data are still pending, the company is now running 6 different clinical-stage CAR-T programs: BCMA for multiple myeloma, CD19 for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, GPC3 for liver cancer, EGFR for glioblastoma, and a program for gastric cancer that targets a protein called Claudin 18.2. An antibody targeting Claudin 18.2 is also in the clinic.
Most of those trials are in China, but CARsgen received clearance in May to start a study of their gastric cancer CAR-T in the US. Last month, the FDA gave it orphan designation. Legend Biotech has developed a similar experimental therapy.