Fast-grow­ing As­cen­t­age has big plans for its lat­est $150M raise -- but what about the IPO?

Like many of to­day’s crop of transpa­cif­ic biotech en­tre­pre­neurs, it is dif­fi­cult to pin down where ex­act­ly As­cen­t­age co-founder and CEO Da­jun Yang is based.

“I spend most time trav­el­ing on the road,” he says, adding that the com­pa­ny has of­fices in Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Suzhou, the US and Aus­tralia.

As­cen­t­age is no up­start. As it put to­geth­er the Se­ries C syn­di­cate of US/Chi­na in­vestors that col­lec­tive­ly brought in $150 mil­lion, the 8-year-old com­pa­ny was boast­ing a pipeline of 7 prod­uct can­di­dates in Chi­na (5 of those al­so in the US, 3 in Aus­tralia), 16 ac­tive INDs, and a staff of rough­ly 240.

As­cen­t­age’s most ad­vanced work is on apop­to­sis, with pro­grams aimed at pro­teins that in­clude Bcl-2/Bcl-xL, IAP and MDM2-p53. With the new in­fu­sion of cash, Yang tells me, the team wants to have six pro­grams in Phase II mul­ti­cen­ter tri­als by the end of the year. That in­cludes the two lead as­sets al­ready in mid-stage stud­ies — AT-101 (Bcl-2/xL and Mcl-1 in­hibitor) and APG-8361 (c-Met in­hibitor) — and four oth­er Phase I drugs tar­get­ing mul­ti­ple can­cer in­di­ca­tions.

“The abil­i­ty to dis­rupt dif­fi­cult-to-tar­get pro­tein-pro­tein in­ter­ac­tions could po­ten­tial­ly trans­form how cer­tain can­cers are treat­ed and en­able ex­pan­sion in­to new in­di­ca­tions,” not­ed Lawrence Tian, chair­man of Yuan­Ming Pru­dence Fund.

Yuan­Ming, an ear­ly in­vestor in the com­pa­ny, co-led the round with fel­low old-timer Oriza Seed Ven­ture Cap­i­tal and new backer Teng Yue Part­ners. Ar­row­Mark Part­ners, HDY In­ter­na­tion­al In­vest­ment, CTS Cap­i­tal and CCB In­ter­na­tion­al al­so chipped in.

The buzz of clin­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties will re­quire an in­crease in head­count and some new space. As­cen­t­age plans to build the team up to 300 in the com­ing six months, and reach 400 by the end of next year. Then there are the R&D cen­ter and man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty it’s plan­ning to con­struct in its Chi­na base of Suzhou, which are ex­pect­ed to be com­plet­ed by 2019 and 2020, re­spec­tive­ly.

There’s plen­ty go­ing on, for sure. But the most in­trigu­ing po­ten­tial move re­mains un­men­tioned — what about an IPO?

In March, just a month be­fore the Hong Kong stock ex­change opened up to pre-rev­enue biotechs, As­cen­t­age stoked the en­thu­si­asm by putting word out that they are drop­ping orig­i­nal plans to list on the Nas­daq in fa­vor of the Hong Kong pub­lic mar­kets. But Yang ap­pears more re­served now, say­ing on­ly that it’s an op­tion they con­sid­er fa­vor­ably.

“It’s just the be­gin­ning of the high qual­i­ty biotech com­pa­nies go­ing to IPO in Hong Kong,” Yang says.


Im­age: Da­jun Yang. AS­CEN­T­AGE

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 83,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 83,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 83,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.