Here's a $200M China startup idea — if you can read beyond the big words
What does it take to gather $200 million from top VC players in China these days?
Not much that can be shared publicly, D3 Bio suggests as it launches with the hefty Series A this morning. But the ingredients feeding into the Shanghai-based aspiring global biotech may be indicative of things that would turn heads at places like Boyu Capital, Matrix Partners China, Sequoia Capital China, Temasek, and WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund.
First, you need a connected, seasoned leader who’s been immersed in the ranks of global biopharma.
D3 Bio co-founder and CEO George Chen put in the years at the NIH, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and J&J after getting an MBA from Penn’s Wharton, lending a hand to more than 70 INDs and 30-plus NDAs. He was chief medical officer at BeiGene for two years before leaving to head up AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D in China.
Then it’s all about hitting the right themes: “Precision medicine” has a next-generation ring to it; a focus on immunology and oncology puts you in the same league as the big guys; talk of building “backbone” drugs that can spawn a pipeline and new combinations is also key.
Top it all with a business model that leverages China’s growing talent pool, resources and research output, and you have a winning idea.
“As far as we know, D3’s approach is unique,” Chen wrote in an email to Endpoints News, “we start with insights from clinical development and an assessment of market needs and, take those insights to the lab to guide the clinical development path.”
So rather than starting out with new scientific discoveries or platform technologies, D3 — which stands for development, discovery, then development again — would “survey the clinical landscape” to find deficiencies in standard-of-care treatments. The next step is identifying disease targets and delivery methods that may plug that gap, and they go from there.
“D3 Bio anticipates that having a clear understanding during preclinical development both of relevant cancer biomarkers and the therapeutic improvement or replacement goals will make drug discovery and development as efficient and focused as possible,” reads a press release.
As with BeiGene, the harbinger for a new breed of biotechs rooted in China but running on global biopharma rules, D3 Bio prides itself on leveraging what Chen calls an “advanced” R&D system.
It will involve a mix of internal discovery and in-licensing deals for early-stage assets, Chen added — somewhat distinct from bringing in late-stage programs for a quick flip to the market, an approach that’s gained renewed momentum. The Series A should sustain the company for a few years as it creates and pushes forward the pipeline.
So what kinds of drugs, diseases and pace should we expect from D3 Bio?
“Stay tuned – D3 will be sharing specifics about its pipeline at the appropriate time,” Chen wrote.