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.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

John Oyler, BeiGene CEO (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bris­tol My­ers wants to pull out of its Abrax­ane deal in Chi­na. BeiGene says no way

A year and a half after Chinese officials ordered BeiGene to stop selling Bristol Myers Squibb’s Abraxane in the wake of an alarming inspection of a US facility, the manufacturing issues at the root of the import suspension still appear unresolved.

And Bristol Myers wants to axe the Abraxane supply deal altogether.

But BeiGene, which is currently in arbitration proceedings against its Big Pharma partner, won’t let it off the hook so easily.

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FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.