Innovent Biologics sets a biotech record in China with $260M raise for PhIII work

Blake Salisbury, Innovent

Blake Salisbury, Innovent

With the substantial help of the Chinese government, Shanghai-based Innovent Biologics has lined up a record $260 million D round designed to take its first set of biosimilars through late-stage testing as it builds out its manufacturing operations. And company execs tell me that it will also help construct a pipeline of new drugs as Innovent lines up partners to market its therapeutics outside of China.

A subsidiary of China’s State Development & Investment Corporation (SDIC) led the financing, along with China Life Private Equity Limited, Milestone, Ping An, and Taikang Insurance Group. Its initial backers, including Legend Capital, Temasek, and Hillhouse Capital, also participated in the bumper round.

Their money — which Innovent says ranks as the biggest round recorded for a Chinese biotech — will be put to use demonstrating the effectiveness of a string of knockoffs for Rituxan, Humira and Avastin, three of the top 10 selling pharmaceuticals in the world.

“We’re thinking that this raise is going to get us to where we can get these products up to commercial launch, but not enough to take us into launch,” says Blake Salisbury, an Eli Lilly veteran who jumped to Innovent last spring as head of business development. “Through 2018 is the goal.”

“We’re squarely focused on bringing these products to the Chinese market,” he adds, while looking for partners to take the biosimilars forward outside of the Asian country, where Innovent will produce the therapies.

In addition to the biosimilars in the late-stage pipeline, Salisbury says the biotech is working on oncology, autoimmune diseases and cardio, with a PD-1 checkpoint product in the lead.

That gives the company potentially a big role in China’s nascent biotech industry, where copycats — matching drugs that are independently developed rather than advanced along a biosimilar pathway — have played a big role so far. Innovent wants to be in the lead of the first biosimilar wave in China, says the BD exec.

The company has already experienced explosive growth, with 380 staffers and growing. And Salisbury adds that an IPO would be a logical next step in its future, as it looks to begin commercialization work. But time will tell.

China will likely play a large role in the biotech industry, as new companies tap into big rounds like this. And Chinese investors have been playing a growing role around the world, joining syndicates like the venture network that supported Kymab’s $100 million mega-round late last week.

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