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).

Bio­mark­er 'roadmap­s' and the fu­ture of can­cer R&D; Cur­tain rais­es on #AS­CO22; Pfiz­er, No­var­tis tack­le drug ac­cess; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

While this was not a week for earth-shattering news, there were certainly a lot of interesting tidbits. If you found this recap helpful, please recommend it to your friends and colleagues. We’ll see you on the other side of the long weekend.

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Keep­ing pres­sure on Am­gen, Mi­rati draws mixed re­views on lat­est cut of KRAS da­ta

As the close runner-up to Amgen’s Lumakras in the KRAS race, any data cut from Mirati’s adagrasib continues to draw scrutiny from analysts. And the latest batch of numbers from ASCO is a decidedly mixed bag.

While a quick comparison suggests that adagrasib spurred slightly more responses and led to a longer overall survival than Lumakras among a group of non-small cell lung cancer patients, its duration of response appears shorter and the safety profile continues to spark concern.

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Ann is one of ViiV Healthcare's newest spokespeople as the retired school administrator speaks up about her HIV status.

GSK's Vi­iV de­buts next evo­lu­tion in HIV med Dova­to cam­paign with new spokes­peo­ple and new mes­sage

When Ann saw the first TV commercials for HIV medicine Dovato, she didn’t see herself represented. So the 74-year-old retired school administrator who’s been living with HIV since 1998, reached out to GSK’s ViiV Healthcare and asked why not?

Now Ann is one of three people starring in ViiV’s latest Dovato campaign called “Detect This.” The next-step evolution in the branded campaign plays on the word “detect” — often used in describing HIV status under control as undetectable — but in this case, uses the word as a directive for people to understand they can use fewer medicines.

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Tran­si­tion to new Eu­ro­pean clin­i­cal tri­als in­fo sys­tem starts slow­ly

At the end of January, the European Medicines Agency officially launched its new clinical trials info system (CTIS), although the migration to the new platform has only really just begun, and sponsors have until the end of January 2023 before all initial trial applications must be submitted through CTIS.

Overall, 56 clinical trial applications have been submitted in CTIS during the first 3 months since the launch of the system on Jan. 31, according to new data posted by the EMA. By comparison, about 4,000 new trials are authorized each year across Europe.

Switzer­land to de­stroy over 600,000 ex­pired dos­es of Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine

As concerns related to uptake and distribution continue to linger, Switzerland is among the first countries that plans to destroy hundreds of thousands of expired and unused Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The European country said it plans to destroy more than 600,000 doses of Moderna’s Spikevax Covid-19 vaccine as the doses have reached their expiration date.

However, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he’s in the process of throwing 30 million doses in the garbage, exclaiming, “We have a big demand problem.”

Nassim Usman, Catalyst Biosciences CEO

Af­ter $60M Ver­tex deal, group of Cat­a­lyst share­hold­ers claims biotech could’ve sold as­sets three years ago

Catalyst Biosciences was down to five employees in March, and the biotech needed to do something after two rounds of layoffs, a nixed collaboration and a culling of its hemophilia program.

In came Vertex, with $60 million to buy up the South San Francisco biotech’s preclinical complement drugs, which target the system that bridges the body’s innate and adaptive immune response and a class most known for Ultomiris and Soliris. The deal includes CB 2782-PEG, the dry AMD drug that Biogen no longer wanted in March.

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Lanny Sun, co-founder, CEO and chairman of Full-Life Technologies

Se­quoia Chi­na leads $37M in­fu­sion in­to ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals play­er set­ting up shop in Chi­na and Bel­gium

It’s not just American startups that are tuning into the rising interest in radiopharmaceuticals.

Sequoia China is leading a $37 million Series A into Full-Life Technologies, a biotech headquartered in Shanghai with offices in Brussels, Belgium, to develop a pipeline of radioactive cancer therapies.

The idea isn’t new: As clinicians started routinely deploying radiation to kill cancer cells, scientists and drugmakers have long been exploring ways to limit that powerful effect only to cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. But recent progress in the production of radioisotopes — coupled with big investments from Big Pharma, most notably Novartis and Bayer — has inspired a new wave of startups.

Lina Khan, FTC chair (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP Images)

Pile-on over PBMs con­tin­ues with FTC com­ments and a new bi­par­ti­san Sen­ate bill

More than 500 stakeholders sent comments to the FTC on whether the commission should look further into pharma middlemen, known as PBMs, with many of the commenters calling for more federal oversight.

Similar to the critical open comment period in a deadlocked FTC session last February, pharmacies and pharmacy groups are continuing to call out the lack of transparency among the top 3 PBMs, which control about 80% of the market.

Pharma brands are losing their shine with US consumers who are now thinking about the economy and inflation instead of Covid. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Phar­ma brands fade in an­nu­al Har­ris con­sumer vis­i­bil­i­ty poll: Mod­er­na drops off and Pfiz­er dips

As Covid-19 concerns are fading in the US, so is biopharma visibility. The annual Axios Harris Poll survey to determine and rank the 100 most top-of-mind brands in the US finds Moderna, which was No. 3 last year, not on the list at all for 2022, and Pfizer sinking 37 spots.

However, it’s not that Moderna or Pfizer did anything wrong, it’s just that Americans have moved on to other worries beyond Covid.

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