Harbour BioMed nets $75M in Series B+ as first global trial gets underway
Nearly two years after drawing an $85 million Series B, Shanghai-based Harbour BioMed has announced a new large funding round.
In what they’re billing as a “Series B+,” Harbour has raised $75 million to help push the biotech’s antibodies further in the clinic and develop more in-house candidates. The round included new investors such as SK Holdings, Greater Bay Area Fund and Efung Capital, who joined returning funds Legend Capital, AdvanTech and GIC, also known as Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.
“The latest funding round is actually a continuation of the previous funding round,” Atul Deshpande, Harbour’s top US executive, told Endpoints News. “Many of these investors were actually interested in investing in the B round, but due to various reasons, they weren’t able to, so they came back to us and we extended the funding to complete just a couple weeks ago.”
Harbour’s ascent has been rapid, at least when measured geographically. The company was founded by Jingsong Wang, the former head of Sanofi’s China R&D who left the French drugmaker at the end of 2015 to consult for Atlas Ventures. In 2016, he founded Harbour BioMed in Shanghai and, with venture backing, purchased an Atlas-backed company called Harbour Antibodies.
The Atlas company, based in Cambridge and Rotterdam, had developed a platform of transgenic mice and had been out-licensing it to biotechs and Big Pharmas, including Pfizer and Eli Lilly. Wang thought he could turn that platform into an in-house pipeline, Deshpande said. The move also instantly gave his Harbour a footprint on the three continents — a footprint the company hasn’t failed to play up.
“Well, with operations in the US, EU and China, I believe Harbour BioMed is already an MNC [multi-national corporation], right?” Wang told Pharma Boardroom last year, in response to a question about what Harbour can do that multi-nationals like Sanofi can’t.
While developing their in-house capacity, Wang began seeking assets that could be brought into the clinic more quickly. He inked an up-to $350 million deal on a PD-L1 with Chinese biotech Kelun, a collaboration with the South Korean biotech HanAll on a pair of antibodies for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, and a deal with Glenmark (now Ichnos) on a bispecific for solid tumors. The two HanAll drugs quickly entered the clinic in three different trials in China.
The new funding will partially go to financing their first global trial for their first in-house candidate. That drug, HBM4003, is a CTLA-4 inhibitor for advanced solid tumors. It differs from traditional CTLA-4 drugs, such as Yervoy, in that instead of consisting of four different chains — the two light chains and two heavy chains that make up most antibodies — it only has the heavy chains.
These antibodies are significantly smaller than their cousin, Deshpande said, and showed better efficacy and safety in preclinical models than their conventional counterparts. The mechanism behind that, though, is not completely clear. The first trial, which just got FDA approval to open sites in the US, will hopefully provide a better answer.
“We don’t know yet,” Deshpande said.