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.”
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.”
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.