Lining up a filing for lead ROS1 inhibitor, transpacific oncology biotech AnHeart Therapeutics raises $61M
In China, the character 安, pronounced An in English phonics, has a few different translations — yet they all come to the same general meaning: calm, safe, comfortable.
And for precision oncology biotech AnHeart Therapeutics, that Chinese character helps to define the company’s objective.
“In Chinese, the pronunciation actually means something — [it] has special meaning: calm, safe, comfortable. So it’s really — you have a very calm heart, comfortable heart full of patients. So we try to make medicine so the patient can feel comfortable, feel safe. Feel calm,” AnHeart CBO and co-founder Lihua Zheng told Endpoints News.
The low profile, Chinese-New York biotech announced this morning that it has finished an oversubscribed Series B — netting $61 million in its largest raise to date. The round, led by new investor Octagon Capital, tagged a few other investors in the financing, including Eli Lilly-linked Innovent, SagePartners and Laurion Capital. This new raise brings AnHeart to a total raise of $100 million since its inception — but that cash flow won’t last the biotech too long. The company has expanded significantly since January, going from 27 employees across its offices in China and New York in January to 65 employees as of Monday.
Inside the New York offices of AnHeart Therapeutics. (Michael Nagle)
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With current plans to expand the company to 100 employees next year, the $61 million is only slated to last AnHeart 12-18 months, Zheng said. And AnHeart will start looking to fill a Series C sometime in Q2 next year.
The biotech, founded in December 2018 after in-licensing their three current drug candidates from Daiichi Sankyo — retaining global rights for two of the candidates and ex-Japan rights for the third — has a current lead candidate known as taletrectinib, a combination ROS1 and NTRK inhibitor that is in Phase II trials for NSCLC. According to Zheng, the Phase II trials can be considered registrational as the potential population to study with certain mutated NSCLC may be too limited for Phase III research.
And for Zheng, what makes taletrectinib unique is that for patients with ROS1 mutations in their cancer, the drug can overcome physical resistance to crizotinib, an earlier-generation NSCLC treatment that targets primarily ALK mutations, with a minor focus on ROS1 mutations. And that physical resistance in patients with mutated-NSCLC has been documented and studied over the last decade.
For drug approval, while Zheng did not provide specifics, he did say that the general timeline is it expects to file an NDA in China sometime in Q2 or Q3 next year — with the US being a year after that.
And regarding any plans to expand AnHeart’s pipeline beyond the three current candidates, AnHeart has started development on some in-house programs, but those targets remain undisclosed.