Konstantin Poukalov

Per­cep­tive re­cruits A-list in­vestors to back its in-house Chi­na start­up with a mam­moth $310M raise

It took two years for Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors to con­ceive and boot up Lian­Bio, its big bet on a new kind of in-li­cens­ing mod­el for Chi­na, seed­ing it with enough cash to set up two an­chor­ing deals with MyoKar­dia and Bridge­Bio. The re­sult was a start­up that was all ready to go, reap­ing $310 mil­lion just a lit­tle over two months af­ter of­fi­cial launch.

Home­grown Chi­nese biotechs — many of them boast­ing of US ties and ex­ecs with over­seas cre­den­tials — have been rak­ing in mega-ven­ture rounds in 2020, both from in­flu­en­tial lo­cal back­ers and over­seas VC firms that have been load­ing up new cash. As with IPOs, the deal flow might be slow­er but the amounts are of­ten more stag­ger­ing. Lian­Bio’s lat­est round, un­usu­al­ly, is brand­ed both a Se­ries A and crossover.

The raise brings in much-need­ed cap­i­tal to add more drugs to the port­fo­lio and set them up for ap­proval in Chi­na, said Kon­stan­tin Poukalov, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Per­cep­tive. But it’s not just about the mon­ey.

“We’ve been form­ing syn­di­cates as part of our day job for many many years now,” said Poukalov, who’s al­so Lian’s ex­ec­u­tive chair­man. “When we set out on this process, we had a very tar­get­ed list of in­vestors who we want­ed to in­tro­duce the Lian sto­ry to.”

Bing Li

All in­vestors in the round came out of that ini­tial small list: RA Cap­i­tal and Ven­rock co-led the round with Chi­nese in­vestor CMG-SDIC Cap­i­tal. Black­Rock, Cas­din Cap­i­tal, Far­al­lon, Lo­gos Cap­i­tal, Pfiz­er, Sphera Health­care, T. Rowe Price As­so­ci­ates, Ty­bourne Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Vi­da Ven­tures, Viking Glob­al In­vestors and Welling­ton Man­age­ment al­so chimed in.

Most of these are like-mind­ed, knowl­edge­able in­vestors that can com­ple­ment Per­cep­tive’s own biotech net­work and con­nect Lian­Bio to po­ten­tial new part­ners, Poukalov not­ed. There are al­so in­vestors from Asia who can help with ex­e­cu­tion on the ground.

In re­turn, Per­cep­tive pitched an op­por­tu­ni­ty to un­lock Chi­na — a boom­ing mar­ket that “no qual­i­ty com­pa­ny should re­al­ly ig­nore” — as a key part of any glob­al drug de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

“In-li­cens­ing pro­grams is on­ly the first step,” Poukalov said. “We want to have world-class ex­per­tise with re­spect to ex­e­cu­tion, de­vel­op­ment, reg­u­la­to­ry and even com­mer­cial­iza­tion in Chi­na.”

De­bra Yu

Since Au­gust the team has al­ready grown from 30 to 40, with CEO Bing Li lead­ing the bulk of them in Shang­hai and pres­i­dent/CBO De­bra Yu head­ing up the lean Prince­ton of­fice, which is fo­cused on busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and al­liance man­age­ment while keep­ing an eye on com­pli­ance and lo­gis­tics.

Aside from the on­col­o­gy and car­dio­vas­cu­lar as­sets they’ve al­ready se­cured, Lian is work­ing on a num­ber of new trans­ac­tions in the in­flam­ma­to­ry, au­toim­mune, neu­rol­o­gy, oph­thal­mol­o­gy, and po­ten­tial­ly rare dis­ease space.

Old­er com­pa­nies that adopt a sim­i­lar li­cens­ing mod­el, from Zai Lab and Ever­est to CAN­bridge, may al­ready be tap­ping in­to some of those ar­eas. Lian­Bio be­lieves it is more am­bi­tious in the breadth of its en­vi­sioned pipeline.

Poukalov added that the com­pa­ny plans to dou­ble in size in the next year or two while it dras­ti­cal­ly scales up the pipeline.

Cap­ping Pas­cal So­ri­ot’s big turn­around, the an­a­lysts at Cowen say As­traZeneca is poised for a stel­lar year

Big Pharmas typically don’t get a lot of respect for R&D efforts. Their ROI is bad on a massive annual bill, there’s too much late-stage failure, analysts fret about the endurance of big franchises and the impact of generic competition.

Even as Pascal Soriot is staunching the bleeding around a badly handled Phase III readout for their Covid-19 vaccine, though, the AstraZeneca CEO is taking a bow today as Cowen lavishes praise on the pipeline and near-term prospects for the multinational — for the second year in a row.

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Scoop: Google’s GV spear­heads the Spot­light syn­di­cate — back­ing an up­start biotech aimed at ‘de­moc­ra­tiz­ing’ gene edit­ing

CRISPR had no sooner started to shake the very foundations of drug development before its limitations began to loom large. Gene editing could change the world — if only you could get around the hurdles that threatened to trip up every program.

So it’s only natural to see CRISPR 2.0 taking shape before the pioneers can get the lead therapies through development. And who better than Google’s GV venture arm to take the lead spot in a small syndicate backing some scientists with their own unique twist on a solution?

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos (via Getty Images)

With ad­u­canum­ab caught on a cliff, Bio­gen’s Michel Vounatsos bets bil­lions on an­oth­er high-risk neu­ro play

With its FDA pitch on the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab hanging perilously close to disaster, Biogen is rolling the dice on a $3.1 billion deal that brings in commercial rights to one of the other spotlight neuro drugs in late-stage development — after it already failed its first Phase III.

The big biotech has turned to Sage Therapeutics for its latest deal, close to a year after the crushing failure of Sage-217, now dubbed zuranolone, in the MOUNTAIN study.

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Kenji Yasukawa

Shop­ping for a hol­i­day pipeline gift? How about an an­ti-NGF an­ti­body from Astel­las?

Astellas is trimming its pipeline again, and this time, they’re letting anyone — literally, anyone — bid to acquire the spare parts.

The Japanese Pharma posted a form on their website last week, allowing any interested buyers to apply for any of eight different assets. Need an anti-NGF monoclonal antibody or a dopamine D1 receptor positive allosteric modulator for that special someone in your life this holiday season? Just fill out a quick company and contact info form here, upload up to 3 files, and a representative from Astellas may be in touch.

Robert Clarke (Kinaset)

Ki­naset launch­es with $40M and a JAK in­hibitor from Vec­tura's old pipeline

Kinaset Therapeutics is joining the search for a better severe asthma treatment, picking up where Vectura left off when it decided to clear house last year.

UK-based Vectura — which took a big hit when its most advanced candidate flopped in a Phase III asthma trial back in 2018 — recently shifted to a CDMO model, offloading all of its R&D programs. Robert Clarke, who’s worked on inhalable therapeutics for 21-plus years, had close contacts at the company and took a look at what they were offering. After doing some research, he was attracted by VR475, a pan-JAK inhibitor.

Sev­er­al weeks af­ter get­ting hit with an RTF, Y-mAbs lands ap­proval for its oth­er neu­rob­las­toma can­di­date

Nearly two months after handing Y-mAbs a refusal to file letter for one of its main neuroblastoma candidates, the FDA gave the biotech an accelerated OK for the other — but with a box warning.

Y-mAbs, which flew mostly under the radar until a few years ago, snagged approval for naxitamab-gqgk as a second-line treatment in combination with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Patients older than 1 year old can take the drug for relapsed or refractory high-risk neuroblastoma in the bone or bone marrow. The good news cushioned last month’s blow, sending the company’s stock $YMAB — which sank more than 18% upon news of the RTF — up 10.15% as of Monday morning.

FDA gives Rhythm the green light for set­melan­otide, a drug aimed at re­duc­ing obe­si­ty in cer­tain ge­net­ic dis­or­ders

A little over a year after completing successful pivotal trials, Rhythm Pharmaceuticals $RYTM has its first drug approval on its hands.

The Boston-based biotech announced Friday that the FDA gave setmelanotide the thumbs-up for three rare genetic disorders that result in obesity in patients six and older. It’s the agency’s first such approval, Rhythm said, with the indicated deficiencies being the POMC, PCSK1 and LEPR genes. Rhythm will market the drug as Imcivree, and plans to have it on the shelves in the first quarter of 2021.

Pascal Soriot (Getty)

As­traZeneca CEO So­ri­ot plans new study to test that con­tro­ver­sial 90% ef­fi­ca­cy fig­ure, wait­ing for US da­ta be­fore go­ing to FDA

Pascal Soriot spent the long Thanksgiving weekend digging AstraZeneca out of a hole, promising to put an end to the questions around its interim Phase III vaccine data by conducting a new study while going to regulators with a large part of what it already has.

AstraZeneca and its partners at Oxford had initially touted high-level results from two studies conducted in the UK and Brazil as positive. But the enthusiasm was soon shadowed by confusion as observers probed into how the highest, 90% efficacy was seen in a dosing regimen given to a small group of volunteers due to an error. Among a larger cohort given the intended shots, the vaccine was only 62% effective, a rate that would’ve been respectable had Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna not posted efficacy rates of 94%, 95% for their mRNA candidates. And many weren’t sure what to make of the average 70% number that AstraZeneca ran in headlines.

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Stephané Bancel (Endpoints at JPM20)

UP­DAT­ED: Mod­er­na cal­i­brates fi­nal Covid-19 vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy at 94.1% — and to­day it's gun­ning for the EUA

Nearly a year ago, as the coronavirus emerged in China, the NIH and four major companies bet on an unproven genetic technology as the best tool for developing a vaccine to stem the outbreak. Today, a second such vaccine is heading to the FDA.

Moderna said Monday that they will request an emergency use authorization from the FDA after a final analysis showed their mRNA vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19. The data confirm the results from an interim analysis and matches efficacy Pfizer and BioNTech showed in a Phase III study, setting the biotech up to potentially nab one of the first two Covid-19 vaccine OKs.

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