In a first, HKEX re­ceives IPO pitch from lo­cal biotech look­ing to make it big in crowd­ed an­ti­bod­ies field

A Hong Kong-based an­ti­body mak­er has filed for an IPO on the HKEX, mark­ing the first tru­ly home­grown com­pa­ny to take ad­van­tage of new rules that al­low pre-rev­enue biotechs to list on the stock ex­change.

Shawn Le­ung HK­IB

Founder and CEO Shawn Le­ung calls SinoMab an in­dus­try pi­o­neer in the re­gion, hav­ing start­ed out in 2002 with sup­port from Morn­ing­side — at a time the city’s lead­ers ap­peared more in­ter­est­ed in “ra­tio­nal­iza­tion” of Chi­nese med­i­cine. Le­ung, an Ox­ford-ed­u­cat­ed lo­cal who trained in the US first as a post­doc then at Im­munomedics, came up with his own frame­work for hu­man­iz­ing an­ti­bod­ies. That formed the ba­sis of SinoMab’s cur­rent pipeline, which com­pris­es a lead an­ti-CD22 drug, a BTK in­hibitor, and four oth­er pre­clin­i­cal mAbs.

With SM03, SinoMab is tar­get­ing some of the biggest in­di­ca­tions in im­munol­o­gy: rheuma­toid arthri­tis (PhI­II), sys­temic lu­pus ery­the­mato­sus (PhI) and Sjö­gren’s syn­drome (IND), in ad­di­tion to non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma (PhII).

While Le­ung has kept the com­pa­ny’s head­quar­ters in Hong Kong’s Sci­ence Park, he’s al­so ex­pand­ed SinoMab’s foot­print, with an of­fice in Shen­zhen, a pro­duc­tion plant in Hainan and a sub­sidiary in Aus­tralia to fa­cil­i­tate clin­i­cal tri­als.

“In fu­ture, we ex­pect to lean more to­wards Chi­na be­cause we are in­creas­ing­ly see­ing that that is where the tal­ent, the mar­ket and the mon­ey are,” he said in a 2017 in­ter­view with Phar­ma Board­room. “As we are look­ing to po­si­tion our­selves for mar­ket ap­proval, we are cur­rent­ly in­vest­ing in a new man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Chi­na and we need chan­nels to source the mon­ey for that. An ex­pand­ed pres­ence in Chi­na will al­so help us ex­pand our port­fo­lio and gain more col­lab­o­ra­tion, both lo­cal­ly and glob­al­ly.”

Le­ung, who’s al­so a mem­ber of the HKEX’s biotech ad­vi­so­ry board, adds that Hong Kong, nev­er­the­less, re­tains a cru­cial edge with re­gards to in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty:

This is not some­thing that com­pa­nies nec­es­sar­i­ly want to do in Chi­na; if an em­ploy­ee de­cides to leave with valu­able da­ta, the sheer phys­i­cal size and pop­u­la­tion den­si­ty of Chi­na mean that he can eas­i­ly dis­ap­pear with­out a trace. In Hong Kong, the in­fra­struc­ture is trust­wor­thy and ro­bust. The biotech com­mu­ni­ty is al­so rather close-knit. This is why no mat­ter how SinoMab grows in the fu­ture, pro­to­type R&D will al­ways be done here and we will on­ly go to Chi­na for the scale-up.

Those would be key sell­ing points for Hong Kong to con­tin­ue com­pet­ing with oth­er biotech hubs in Chi­na — most no­tably Shang­hai, which re­cent­ly opened up its own biotech board.

SinoMab has ac­cu­mu­lat­ed a num­ber of Chi­nese in­vestors af­ter five ven­ture rounds. Aside from the 21.7% Le­ung holds via Skytech Tech­nol­o­gy, there are three oth­er big share­hold­ers: Forbes Cap­i­tal So­lu­tions claims 24.21%, Hainan Haiyao con­trols 18.45%, and Apri­cot has a 25.83% stake pri­or to the IPO.

So­cial im­age: Shut­ter­stock

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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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.

President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

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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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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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.