China, IPOs

Pre-revenue vaccine developer CanSino lines up at a buzzing HKEX

On the same day Ascletis started publicly pitching its historic IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange, another homegrown drugmaker is taking its own shot at a public listing.

Xuefeng Yu

Probably best known for its Ebola vaccine — which got approved and accepted into China’s national stockpile last October — CanSino Biologics is developing 15 vaccine candidates for 12 disease areas in total. The lead programs focus on meningococcal conjugate vaccines, followed by versions of the common DTP vaccine, both of which would be boosted by the raise.

As its name (quite subtly) suggests, CanSino has its roots in the Canadian/Chinese connection the founders shared. It all started, CEO Xuefeng Yu writes in an opening letter, on a summer day about 10 years ago, when Helen Huihua Mao, Dongxu Qiu, Tao Zhu and himself gathered for a barbeque in Toronto.

Helen Huihua Mao

As senior execs at Sanofi Pasteur, AstraZeneca and Wyeth, they saw all too well the glaring gap in vaccine development as illustrated by Yu’s stories from his trips to China. Then they made a decision that surprised even themselves: to start a company that would not only produce better alternatives to current or imported vaccines, but also come up with “globally innovative” vaccines based on China’s unmet medical needs.

Dongxu Qiu

That was 2009. Nine years later, they have attracted top-notch investors at Lilly Asia Ventures (18.75%) and Qiming Ventures (8.10%) as well as the state-owned Future Industry Development Fund (5.50%) to back their vision. The founders, who are now joined by former AstraZeneca top exec Shou-Bai Chao in running the company, each hold around 10% of the stock.

Tao Zhu

As CanSino moves forward with two Phase III MCV programs, two Phase I DTP vaccines, an early-stage tuberculosis booster and a slate of other preclinical projects, they’ve also started building up a commercial plan. The plan, they write in the application, is to have 100 staffers dedicated to selling the vaccines to local centers for disease control, initially in 30 economically-developed cities and gradually expanding to other locations.

If Ascletis’ progress is any indication, the HKEX regulators — assisted by a panel of esteemed biotech professionals — will have no problem by keeping the vetting process within the promised 12 weeks.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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