For­get the biotech mega-round. Try the $200M-plus Chi­na 'ul­tra' on for size

Shang­hai-based I-Mab Bio­phar­ma is help­ing to re­cal­cu­late what the word “big’ means in biotech ven­ture rounds. And it’s not $100 mil­lion.

The biotech has raised $220 mil­lion in what it says is the largest C round ever for a Chi­nese biotech. And the bulk of the mon­ey for this ul­tra-round is com­ing from some home-grown funds in Chi­na that have been spawn­ing a slate of new ven­tures that are aim­ing at the vir­tu­al overnight cre­ation of ful­ly in­te­grat­ed bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies, from re­search soup to com­mer­cial nuts.

Jing­wu Zang

I-Mab’s last round: $150 mil­lion a lit­tle more than a year ago. Next step: Quite pos­si­bly an IPO to con­tin­ue fast-paced de­vel­op­ment work.

These new ul­tra rounds are be­com­ing a thing in Chi­na. CStone gath­ered up $260 mil­lion for its out­sized B round just a few weeks ago, match­ing Arch with some ma­jor league Chi­na play­ers like WuXi. 

The lat­est fund­ing round of­fers a per­fect ex­am­ple of what’s hap­pen­ing to­day in Chi­na biotech. I-Mab’s ex­ec­u­tive crew is drawn from a group of Chi­nese play­ers with ster­ling re­sumes that span from the best med­ical schools in the US and Chi­na to Big Phar­ma re­search ex­pe­ri­ence that lends plen­ty of cred­i­bil­i­ty. 

Joan Shen

CEO Jing­wu Zang is a grad­u­ate of Har­vard Med­ical School and a GSK vet, for ex­am­ple. R&D chief Joan (Huaqiong) Shen worked at Eli Lil­ly and Pfiz­er in the US and lat­er went on to head J&J’s de­vel­op­ment work in Chi­na.

The com­pa­ny has been busi­ly in-li­cens­ing drugs from promi­nent transat­lantic bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies. One re­cent ex­am­ple: I-Mab paid Mor­phosys $20 mil­lion up­front and of­fered $100 mil­lion in mile­stones — out­lined in an SEC fil­ing — to gain the Chi­na rights to their an­ti-CD38 ther­a­py for mul­ti­ple myelo­ma, MOR-202. And they’re start­ing with pro­grams in mid- to late-stage de­vel­op­ment with plans to work with in­creas­ing­ly flex­i­ble gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tors anx­ious to hur­ry along the birth of an in­dus­try.

In this case, I-Mab is deal­ing with an ex­pand­ed syn­di­cate of Asian in­vestors.

Pri­vate eq­ui­ty group Ho­ny Cap­i­tal in Bei­jing led the round, with par­tic­i­pa­tions from Hill­house Cap­i­tal (run by Yale-ed­u­cat­ed Zhang Lei), HOPU In­vest­ments (which just raised more than $2 bil­lion in­vest­ment cash), the pro­lif­ic CDH In­vest­ment, Al­ly Bridge Group (ac­tive in the US), Sin­ga­pore-based ED­BI, and ex­ist­ing in­vestors C-Bridge Cap­i­tal (an­oth­er pri­vate eq­ui­ty group big on biotech) and Tasly Cap­i­tal (which part­nered with C-Bridge in merg­ing Shang­hai’s Tian­jing Bio­phar­ma and Tian­jin’s Tianzhen­shi Biotech­nol­o­gy last year).

Brent Saunders [Getty Photos]

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan — spelling out $1B in R&D cuts

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Turned back at the FDA, Im­muno­Gen is ax­ing 220 staffers, sell­ing pro­grams and hun­ker­ing down for a new PhI­II gam­ble

After being stymied by FDA regulators who were unconvinced by ImmunoGen’s $IMGN desperation shot at an accelerated OK based on a secondary endpoint, the struggling biotech is slashing its workforce, shuttering R&D projects and looking for buyers to pick up some of its experimental cancer assets as it goes back into a new Phase III with the lead drug.

We found out last month that the FDA had batted back their case for an accelerated approval of their antibody-drug conjugate mirvetuximab soravtansine, which had earlier failed a Phase III study for ovarian cancer. Now the other shoe is dropping.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Bridge­Bio takes crown for biggest biotech IPO of 2019, as fel­low uni­corn Adap­tive rais­es of­fer­ing size and price

Bridge­Bio Phar­ma and Adap­tive Biotech­nolo­gies have not just up­sized IPO of­fer­ings — the pair of uni­corns have al­so raised their of­fer­ing prices above the range, haul­ing in a com­bined $648.5 mil­lion.

Neil Ku­mar’s Bridge­Bio Phar­ma, found­ed in 2015, has a sta­ble of com­pa­nies fo­cused on dis­eases that are dri­ven by de­fects in a sin­gle gene — en­com­pass­ing der­ma­tol­ogy, car­di­ol­o­gy, neu­rol­o­gy, en­docrinol­o­gy, re­nal dis­ease, and oph­thal­mol­o­gy — and can­cers with clear ge­net­ic dri­vers. The start­up mill birthed a pletho­ra of firms such as Ei­dos, Navire, QED Ther­a­peu­tics and Pelle­Pharm, which func­tion as its sub­sidiaries.

As­traZeneca chal­lenges Roche on front­line SCLC af­ter seiz­ing an in­ter­im win — and Mer­ck may not be far be­hind

The crowded playing field in the PD-1/L1 marketing game is about to get a little more complex.

This morning AstraZeneca reported that its CASPIAN study delivered a hit in an interim readout for their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with etoposide and platinum-based chemotherapy options for frontline cases of small cell lung cancer, a tough target which has already knocked back Bristol-Myers’ shot in second-line cases. The positive data  — which we won’t see before they roll it out at an upcoming scientific conference — give AstraZeneca excellent odds of a quick vault to challenging Roche’s Tecentriq-chemo combo, approved 3 months ago for frontline SCLC in a landmark advance.

“This is the first trial offering the flexibility of combining immunotherapy with different platinum-based regimens in small cell lung cancer, expanding treatment options,” noted AstraZeneca cancer R&D chief José Baselga in a statement.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter rais­ing $158M, this up­start's founders have star back­ers and plans to break new ground in gene ther­a­py

Back in 2014, Stephanie Tagliatela opted to take an early exit out of her PhD program after working in Mark Bear’s lab at MIT, where she specialized in the synaptic connections between neuronal cells in the brain. She never finished that PhD, but she and fellow MIT student Kartik Ramamoorthi — who was on the founding team at Voyager — came away with some ideas for a gene therapy startup.

Today, fully 5 years later, she and Ramamoorthi are taking the wraps off of a $104 million mega-round designed to take the cumulative work of their preclinical formative stage for Encoded Therapeutics into human studies. They’ve now raised $158 million since starting out in Illumina’s incubator in the Bay Area, and they believe they are firmly on track to do something unique in gene therapy.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Image: Chris Varma. Frontier

UP­DAT­ED: Chris Var­ma un­veils MP­M's lat­est start­up — eye­ing 'un­drug­gable' can­cer tar­gets and pow­ered by ma­chine learn­ing, $67M

Two years af­ter MPM Cap­i­tal en­list­ed Chris Var­ma on its busy on­col­o­gy team, the for­mer en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence is un­veil­ing his first ven­ture project out of his new stomp­ing grounds in the Bay Area: Fron­tier Med­i­cines.

For Var­ma, who’s al­so co-found­ed Blue­print Med­i­cines and built com­pa­nies at Third Rock and Flag­ship, this marks an­oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ty to ap­ply some cut­ting-edge sci­ence to “sev­er­al of the most im­por­tant and dif­fi­cult tar­gets in can­cer” — tar­gets that oth­ers have tried to tack­le with more clas­si­cal meth­ods and failed. The launch round comes in at $67 mil­lion, which should go some way in scaf­fold­ing a pre­clin­i­cal pipeline and push one or more as­sets in­to the clin­ic three years from now, he tells me.

Tasly Bio­phar­ma pitch­es long-await­ed IPO — will it trig­ger an­oth­er $1B gold rush on HKEX?

In the run up to the Hong Kong stock ex­change’s an­tic­i­pat­ed rule change — open­ing the door for Chi­nese pre-rev­enue biotechs to go pub­lic clos­er to home — more than a year ago, Tasly Bio­phar­ma was one of the big play­ers whose ru­mored in­ter­est helped stoke en­thu­si­asm for the new list­ing venue. The com­pa­ny has since kept the drum­roll rum­bling in the back­ground, rais­ing a pre-IPO round and con­vinc­ing part­ner Trans­gene to swap own­er­ship in a joint ven­ture for eq­ui­ty. Now the oth­er shoe has fi­nal­ly dropped as ex­ecs out­line plans for a pipeline dom­i­nat­ed by car­dio­vas­cu­lar drugs.

Richard Gonzalez testifying in front of Senate Finance Committee, February 2019 [AP Images]

Ab­b­Vie's $63B buy­out spot­lights the re­turn of ma­jor M&A deals — de­spite the back­lash

Big time M&A is back. But for how long?

Over the past 18 months we’ve now seen three major buyouts announced: Takeda/Shire; Bristol-Myers/Celgene and now AbbVie/Allergan. And with this latest deal it’s increasingly clear that the sharp fall from grace suffered by high-profile players which have seen their share prices blasted has created an opening for the growth players in big pharma to up their game — in sharp contrast to the popular bolt-on deals that have been driving the growth strategy at Novartis, Merck, Roche and others.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.