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.”

What Will it Take to Re­al­ize the Promise and Po­ten­tial of Im­mune Cell Ther­a­pies?

What does it take to get to the finish line with a new cancer therapy – fast? With approvals in place and hundreds of immune cell therapy candidates in the pipeline, the global industry is poised to create a fundamental shift in cancer treatments towards precision medicine. At the same time, unique challenges associated with cell and process complexity present manufacturing bottlenecks that delay speed to market and heighten cost of goods sold (COGS) — these hurdles must be overcome to make precision treatments an option for every cancer patient. This series of articles highlights some of the key manufacturing challenges associated with the production of cell-based cancer therapies as well as the solutions needed to transcend them. Automation, process knowledge, scalability, and assured supply of high-quality starting material and reagents are all critical to realizing the full potential of CAR-based therapies and sustaining the momentum achieved in recent years. The articles will highlight leading-edge technologies that incorporate these features to integrate across workflows, accelerate timelines and reduce COGS – along with how these approaches are enabling the biopharmaceutical industry to cross the finish line faster with new treatment options for patients in need.

The biggest ques­tions fac­ing gene ther­a­py, the XLMTM com­mu­ni­ty, and Astel­las af­ter fourth pa­tient death

After three patients died last year in an Astellas gene therapy trial, the company halted the study and began figuring out how to safely get the program back on track. They would, executives eventually explained, cut the dose by more than half and institute a battery of other measures to try to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Then tragically, Astellas announced this week that the first patient to receive the new regimen had died, just weeks after administration.

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Lat­est news: It’s a no on uni­ver­sal boost­ers; Pa­tient death stuns gene ther­a­py field; In­side Tril­li­um’s $2.3B turn­around; and more

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President Biden and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

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