Hong Kong ex­change picks up steam with two biotech IPOs from In­novent, Mi­cuRx

Amid the IPO fren­zy tak­ing place on the Nas­daq, the stock ex­change in Hong Kong has qui­et­ly caught up with two ap­pli­ca­tions at the end of last week — the third and fourth com­pa­nies to try the route since the city opened up to pre-rev­enue biotechs want­i­ng to list.

Michael Yu

The first can­di­date is In­novent Bi­o­log­ics, a 7-year-old biotech uni­corn long ru­mored to be an­gling for a pub­lic list­ing and hand­ed $150 mil­lion in a Se­ries E crossover round weeks ago. They were joined by fel­low Shang­hai-based drug­mak­er Mi­cuRx Phar­ma, which is look­ing for some help pow­er­ing through var­i­ous stud­ies for its drugs treat­ing mul­ti­ple drug re­sis­tant in­fec­tions.

In an un­usu­al chair­man’s let­ter that starts off the ap­pli­ca­tion doc­u­ment, In­novent founder and CEO Michael Yu re­flect­ed on the found­ing phi­los­o­phy of the com­pa­ny:

The re­al­i­ty is that there is a huge gap be­tween Chi­na’s bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try and in­ter­na­tion­al stan­dards. Chi­na’s bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal pro­duc­tion ca­pac­i­ty is less than one-fifti­eth of that of the Unit­ed States, and not even one-tenth of that of South Ko­rea. Among the top ten best-sell­ing drugs in the world, eight are bi­o­log­ics and five are mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body drugs, while Chi­na’s best­selling drugs are still most­ly chem­i­cal drugs and tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese med­i­cines. Im­port­ed drugs dom­i­nate Chi­na’s an­ti­body drug mar­ket, and for most Chi­nese pa­tients, these life-sav­ing drugs are of­ten un­af­ford­able and out of reach.

His an­swer to that need has now grown to a 510-strong com­pa­ny with a pipeline of 17 drugs, with sev­en in clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and four in Phase III tri­als.

Sin­til­imab, a PD-1 in­hibitor cur­rent­ly un­der pri­or­i­ty re­view in Chi­na, is the star here; In­novent is al­so look­ing to start ear­ly-stage tri­als of the drug in the US while us­ing it as a base for two oth­er as­sets they are co-de­vel­op­ing with Eli Lil­ly.

As is stan­dard in these ap­pli­ca­tions, In­novent redact­ed any­thing that could re­mote­ly give the IPO away, so we don’t know whether it is in­deed seek­ing $300 mil­lion to $500 mil­lion, as Reuters pre­vi­ous­ly re­port­ed. What we do know is that sin­til­imab, to­geth­er with three biosim­i­lars — go­ing af­ter block­busters like Avastin, Rit­ux­an and Hu­mi­ra — will claim most of the raise, from tri­als and reg­is­tra­tion fil­ings to com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

Great Biono For­tune, a coali­tion of In­novent em­ploy­ees, owns the largest chunk of stock at 10.22%, fol­lowed by Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures and F-Prime Cap­i­tal, which have 8.86% each.

Zhengyu Yuan

Mi­cuRx, mean­while, has kept its am­bi­tions tight­ly un­der wraps. CEO Zhengyu Yuan found­ed the com­pa­ny af­ter an R&D stint at Vi­curon (merged with Pfiz­er) with the help of then-col­league Mike Gordeev, now CSO.

The com­pa­ny, which has teams in both San Fran­cis­co and Shang­hai, closed a $15 mil­lion fi­nanc­ing last year to com­plete a Phase III for its lead oral an­tibi­ot­ic, con­te­zol­id (MRX-1). The bulk of the raise will go to­ward MRX-4, a pro­drug for­mu­la­tion of MRX-1 dubbed con­te­zol­id ace­fos­amil. While the drug is on­ly be­gin­ning hu­man stud­ies in Chi­na, it’s ready to roll with a Phase II in the US lat­er in the year. Mi­cuRx will al­so in­vest some cash in­to a pre­clin­i­cal polymicin an­tibi­ot­ic backed by CARB-X.

A BVCF sub­sidiary and Morn­ing­side are the largest share­hold­ers, con­trol­ling 29.12% and 26.50% re­spec­tive­ly.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Mer­ck wins a third FDA nod for an­tibi­ot­ic; Mereo tack­les TIG­IT with $70M raise in hand

Merck — one of the last big pharma bastions in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Friday said the FDA had signed off on using its combination drug, Recarbrio, with hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia. The drug could come handy for use in hospitalized patients who are afflicted with Covid-19, who carry a higher risk of contracting secondary bacterial infections. Once SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind Covid-19, infects the airways, it engages the immune system, giving other pathogens free rein to pillage and plunder as they please — the issue is particularly pertinent in patients on ventilators, which in any case are breeding grounds for infectious bacteria.