Former Viela CEO Bing Yao finds his next gig — bringing Chinese R&D innovation stateside
When Horizon Therapeutics bought out Viela Bio for $53 a share, everyone wondered what then-CEO Bing Yao would do next — including himself. Three months after the sale was completed, we have an answer.
Yao launched ArriVent Biopharma on Wednesday with up to $150 million in funding and an EGFR-targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor in-licensed from Shanghai-based Allist Pharmaceuticals. His goal? To bring innovations from China and other emerging biotech hubs to the US, EU and beyond.
“We identified an opportunity to globalize medicines in that area,” Yao told Endpoints News. “We found that we can build a very strong development team to develop those compounds and bring them to the US.”
The move represents the growing role of China as a leader in innovation in pharma R&D. Back in January, Novartis dropped $650 million upfront to bring BeiGene’s PD-1 antibody stateside. And after stepping away from his post at Merck, Roger Perlmutter recently signed on as a science advisor to the Shanghai-based CBC Group, a prominent investment group that’s been fostering some of the big new biotech startups in Asia.
“We are trying to bring external innovations in and also bring our innovations out to other geographical regions,” BeiGene’s SVP of external innovations Lusong Luo told Endpoints a few months ago.
ArriVent is planning to file an IND by the end of the year for its lead candidate, furmonertinib, in EGFR-mutated non-small cell lung cancer. The drug has already been approved in China for EGFR T790M mutation-positive locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC, and Yao believes it has the potential to be best-in-class.
Furmonertinib’s going up against a slew of others in the red-hot EGFR-mutated NSCLC market, including EQRx and Hansoh Pharma’s aumolertinib, which has also been approved in China. That drug bested AstraZeneca’s TKI inhibitor Iressa on progression-free survival in a head-to-head trial, according to data presented at this year’s ASCO, and the partners said they planned to pursue discussions with regulators in “multiple countries” immediately.
While ArriVent’s initial focus will be oncology, Yao says he’s open to leveraging candidates across a broad range of development stages, from late research to late-stage trials to approval.
“We have an extensive network,” he added.
The Series A round — led by Hillhouse Capital Group — includes $90 million upfront, with another $60 million lined up if the company reaches certain milestones. Lilly Asia Ventures, OrbiMed, Octagon Capital Advisors, Boyu/Zoo Capital, and Lyra Capital also chipped in on the round.