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.
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.
Opening up the stock market to biotech is going to build up an entire biotech ecosystem around it. The implications go way beyond the stock market. There will be dozens of R&D focused companies in the coming years as a result of it.
— Brad Loncar (@bradloncar) July 8, 2019
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.
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