Bing Li, Debra Yu and Konstantin Poukalov, LianBio

Per­cep­tive births its first in-house start­up — and it's a Chi­na play

Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors is go­ing to Chi­na.

Adam Stone

The de­ci­sion dates back two years, chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer Adam Stone tells End­points News, when the firm be­gan to fig­ure out how it can, in hedge fund-speak, strate­gi­cal­ly in­crease its ex­po­sure to a grow­ing bio­phar­ma mar­ket poised to be a key ge­o­graph­ic area in the next sev­er­al decades. It was a bit of a blindspot for Per­cep­tive, he ad­mits.

As “glob­al­ized sci­en­tist-in­vestors, we just couldn’t af­ford to have that blindspot in place,” he says.

A deep dive point­ed to cre­at­ing a new com­pa­ny based on an in-li­cens­ing mod­el, lever­ag­ing Per­cep­tive’s ex­ten­sive biotech net­work in the US, and they re­cruit­ed two sea­soned ex­ec­u­tives — CEO Bing Li and De­bra Yu, pres­i­dent and CBO — to get things start­ed in Oc­to­ber. Bare­ly a year lat­er, Lian­Bio is burst­ing out the gate with 30 staffers, sev­er­al late-stage as­sets and a big port­fo­lio deal.

Bridge­Bio and MyoKar­dia have signed up as the an­chor­ing part­ners. For $26.5 mil­lion in near-term pay­ments and $505 mil­lion in po­ten­tial mile­stones, Neil Ku­mar’s ge­net­ics-fo­cused shop is hand­ing over two tar­get­ed on­col­o­gy drug can­di­dates and giv­ing Lian pref­er­en­tial fu­ture ac­cess to 20-plus pro­grams in its port­fo­lio. The lat­ter deal cen­ters around mava­camten, the car­diomy­opa­thy drug that CEO Tas­sos Gi­anakakos said was “good to go” af­ter clinch­ing a cru­cial Phase III win ear­li­er this year. The up­front comes in at $40 mil­lion, with an­oth­er $147.5 mil­lion on the ta­ble.

Pi­o­neers like Zai Lab and Ever­est paved the way to fill the in­no­va­tion gap by bring­ing ex­per­i­men­tal and new drugs from the US and Eu­rope to Chi­na — with a promise to com­plete the lo­cal clin­i­cal work re­quired for ap­proval as well as the com­mer­cial troops need­ed to field the treat­ments.

But these days, with a horde of Chi­nese play­ers clam­or­ing for West­ern as­sets, it has be­come an in­creas­ing­ly chal­leng­ing area. You need a next-gen­er­a­tion mod­el to tap in­to tru­ly “par­a­digm shift­ing as­sets,” Li says.

“My ex­pe­ri­ence clear­ly tells me that this is prob­a­bly the on­ly way to make this mod­el work, to pair the man­age­ment team with a very strong busi­ness de­vel­op­ment en­gine, which Per­cep­tive pro­vides.” he adds.

Hav­ing fa­cil­i­tat­ed the ac­qui­si­tion of Am­bryx by Chi­nese in­vestors in 2015 and helped set up the Fo­s­un/Kite CAR-T joint ven­ture, Li had just stepped down from the CEO post at Chi­na Bi­o­log­ic when Yu in­tro­duced him to Per­cep­tive. Yu, the for­mer head of strat­e­gy at WuXi AppTec, had been go­ing around the US do­ing what she calls “Chi­na 101” meet­ings with state­side in­vestors. Per­cep­tive stood out as “or­ders of mag­ni­tude off the spec­trum so­phis­ti­cat­ed” in how they were think­ing about the mar­ket.

The in­vestor group — his­tor­i­cal­ly a pas­sive in­vestor that en­joys clin­i­cal-stage in­vest­ments and crossover rounds — al­so made its first for­ay in­to the com­pa­ny for­ma­tion and Se­ries A space late last year, set­ting up a $210 mil­lion ear­ly-stage VC fund with Xon­toge­ny. That part­ner­shp gave it ac­cess to Chris Garabe­di­an’s in­cu­ba­tor and a taste of start­up build­ing.

With heavy help from Kon­stan­tin Poukalov, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Per­cep­tive, and his col­leagues, Yu says her group is able to soup up the BD for­mu­la and present tai­lor-made de­vel­op­ment pro­pos­als to each part­ner.

“We talk to KOLs, we do analy­sis up­side down, back­wards and for­wards if you will,” she says.

Yu now man­ages a small of­fice in Prince­ton, New Jer­sey tasked with han­dling BD and al­liances, while Li spends the bulk of his time with the core team in Shang­hai.

“They are think­ing cre­ative­ly about this,” Ku­mar writes in an email to End­points. “This is ex­em­pli­fied by their work on our FGFR in­hibitor in­fi­gra­tinib and their plans to ex­pand in­di­ca­tions in­to ar­eas like gas­tric can­cer.”

Oth­er than the Phase III drug, which is housed in QED, Lian is notch­ing Chi­na and se­lect­ed Asian rights to Navire’s SHP2 in­hibitor BBP-398.

Poukalov, who’s al­so ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Lian, notes that MyoKar­dia and Bridge­Bio will be­come share­hold­ers in the car­diore­nal and on­col­o­gy sub­sidiaries. Ku­mar and Gi­anakakos will join the board and play a part in guid­ing fu­ture in-li­cens­ing de­ci­sions, which can in­volve com­pounds in even ear­li­er stages.

Look­ing fur­ther down the road, Lian may set up more sub­sidiaries fo­cused on neu­rol­o­gy, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases and even oph­thal­mol­o­gy.

The ex­act tim­ing will de­pend in part on the pace of Chi­na’s on­go­ing reg­u­la­to­ry re­forms. From the re­vi­sion of the rare dis­ease list to new re­im­burse­ment ap­proach­es, the Lian team sees pos­i­tive trends all around.

“We just saw the break­through des­ig­na­tion pol­i­cy im­ple­ment­ed and in fact they just grant­ed the first one to Leg­end Biotech. So you can see that clear­ly, they are still adding more el­e­ments sim­i­lar to the US,” Li says. “The big di­rec­tion is there, but there’s more de­tails and re­fin­ing that’s com­ing.”

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Hal Barron, GSK via YouTube

What does $29B buy you in Big Phar­ma? In Glax­o­SmithK­line’s case, a whole lot of un­com­fort­able ques­tions about the pipeline

Talk about your bad timing.

A little over a week ago, GSK R&D chief Hal Barron marked his third anniversary at the research helm by taking a turn at the virtual podium during JP Morgan to make the case that he and his team had built a valuable late-stage pipeline capable of churning out more than 10 blockbusters in the next 5 years.

And then, just days later, one of the cancer drugs he bet big on as a top prospect — bintrafusp, partnered with Merck KGaA — failed its first pivotal test in non-small cell lung cancer.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

End­points poll: Janet Wood­cock takes the (in­ter­im) helm at the FDA. And a large ma­jor­i­ty of our read­ers want her to stay there

It’s official: Janet Woodcock is now the acting chief of the FDA.

And — according to an Endpoints poll — most industry readers would like her to stay there, although a significant minority is strongly opposed.

To recap: Joe Biden is reportedly choosing between Woodcock and former deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein as his nominee for the permanent position. Given their respective track records, the decision is set to determine the agency’s lodestar for years to come.

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An Endpoints Zoom meeting; and the email header employees will see if your company is a Premium subscriber

What’s next for End­points — and how to sup­port our in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma news mis­sion

The firehose of biopharma news is gushing these days.

That’s why broader and deeper is the theme for 2021 at Endpoints. You can expect new coverage outside our core R&D focus, with deeper reporting in some key areas. When John Carroll and I launched Endpoints nearly five years ago, we were wading in waist-high waters. Now we’re a team of 25 full-time staffers (and growing) with plans to cover the flood of biopharma news, Endpoints-style.

Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein (AP, Images)

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It’s time for a new FDA commissioner to come on board, a rite of passage for Joe Biden’s administration that should help seal the new president’s rep on seeking out the experts to lead the government over the next 4 years.

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Little Aurinia Pharmaceuticals has gotten the green light from the FDA to start marketing its first and only program, voclosporin, under the brand name Lupkynis — something CEO Peter Greenleaf says it’s been ready to do since December.

Regulators went right down to the wire on the decision, keeping the company and the entire salesforce it’s already assembled on its toes.

Charlie Fuchs, Roche and Genentech global head of product development for oncology and hematology (Yale Cancer Center)

Yale can­cer spe­cial­ist Char­lie Fuchs tapped as new glob­al de­vel­op­ment chief for Roche/Genen­tech

Roche and their big sub Genentech have just recruited a top cancer specialist at Yale to head up global product development in oncology and hematology.

I just got word that the pharma giant, which leads one of the most active cancer research operations in the world, recruited Charlie Fuchs, director of the Yale Cancer Center and physician-in-chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital. He’ll join the global operation March 1 and will be based in South San Francisco, where Genentech is based.

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Neu­vo­gen un­cloaks with broad plan of at­tack for whole-cell can­cer vac­cines, clin­i­cal hopes with­in the year

After about four stealthy years in the development phase, San Diego-based Neuvogen is emerging with a new approach to whole-cell cancer vaccines and nine solid tumor programs bound for the clinic.

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“What’s different from what we do, is most people use one cell line. We use six,” CEO Todd Binder said. From there, the company builds out six modifications to eliminate problematic immunosuppressive factors, and add what the executive called three “stimulatory factors” to generate a prime and overcome peripheral tolerance.

Jonathan Weissman (MIT)

Can a new CRISPR tech­nique un­lock the se­crets of how can­cer spreads?

Jonathan Weissman’s team watched the cancer cells spread across the doomed mouse. Engineered with a bioluminescent enzyme, they appeared in scans first as a small navy blue diamond lodged near the heart; a week later, as a triangle splayed across the mouse’s upper body, with streaks of green and two distinct bright red hubs of activity. By day 54, the mouse resembled a lava lamp.

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