Right on the heels of $150M raise, As­cen­t­age files the lat­est in a rush of HKEX biotech IPOs — but is the mar­ket too jit­tery?

When I spoke to As­cen­t­age CEO Da­jun Yang last month about their $150 mil­lion raise, he dodged my ques­tion about the prospects for an IPO. As it turned out, we didn’t have to wait long for the an­swer.

The fast-grow­ing biotech post­ed their ap­pli­ca­tion on the Hong Kong stock ex­change Mon­day, mark­ing the 10th bio­phar­ma com­pa­ny to line up their IPO pitch — all de­buts ex­cept for BeiGene — since the city opened up to pre-rev­enue biotechs in April.

Da­jun Yang

At 8 years old, As­cen­t­age is a well-known name in the Chi­nese biotech cir­cle that, in the lead-up to HKEX’s of­fi­cial rule change, stoked the en­thu­si­asm by putting word out that they are drop­ping orig­i­nal plans to list on the Nas­daq in fa­vor of the Hong Kong pub­lic mar­kets.

As is fa­mil­iar prac­tice by now, As­cen­t­age heav­i­ly redact­ed the fil­ing and did not give away the ex­act amount they are look­ing to raise. But we do know that what­ev­er mon­ey they col­lect will fund their first po­ten­tial mar­ket­ed prod­uct: While HQP1351 is still very ear­ly in Phase II/III tri­als for chron­ic myeloid leukemia, the com­pa­ny sin­gled it out as the on­ly as­set with mon­ey al­lo­cat­ed for com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

The rest of As­cen­t­age pipeline, chiefly built on their work on a form of pro­grammed cell death known as apop­to­sis, is al­so get­ting some love.

One of them is a c-Met re­cep­tor ty­ro­sine ki­nase in­hibitor li­censed from Mer­ck that — as we now know from the fil­ing — As­cen­t­age paid $500,000 up­front for. The mile­stones for a first in­di­ca­tion would cost up to $8 mil­lion.

An­oth­er is APG1252, the sub­ject of a li­cens­ing deal where an­ti-ag­ing up­start Uni­ty Biotech­nol­o­gy paid for rights to de­vel­op the Bcl-2/Bcl-XL in­hibitor for non-on­col­o­gy us­es. As­cen­t­age stands to earn $38 mil­lion in stock and cash in this pact.

If that sounds like a lot of pro­grams to keep track of, it is. Yang told me that their $150 mil­lion Se­ries C will al­low the team to push six pro­grams in­to Phase II mul­ti­cen­ter tri­als by the end of the year.

To keep up with the pace — with work tak­ing place in Chi­na, the US and Aus­tralia — As­cen­t­age plans to build the team up to 300 in the com­ing six months, and reach 400 by the end of next year. Then there are the R&D cen­ter and man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty it’s plan­ning to con­struct in its Chi­na base of Suzhou, which are ex­pect­ed to be com­plet­ed by 2019 and 2020, re­spec­tive­ly. The IPO will foot some of those bills, too.

Have the shaky per­for­mances of BeiGene and As­cle­tis, the first biotechs to test the wa­ters at HKEX (and, to be sure, reaped huge amounts), af­fect­ed his ex­pec­ta­tions for As­cen­t­age’s float? I asked Yang for some thoughts and will up­date the sto­ry when I hear back.

As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Ab­b­Vie wins an ap­proval in uter­ine fi­broid-as­so­ci­at­ed heavy bleed­ing. Are ri­vals My­ovant and Ob­sE­va far be­hind?

Women expel on average about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their time of the month. But with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding is typical — a third of a cup or more. Drugmakers have been working on oral therapies to try and stem the flow, and as expected, AbbVie and their partners at Neurocrine Biosciences are the first to make it across the finish line.

Known chemically as elagolix, the drug is already approved as a treatment for endometriosis under the brand name Orilissa. It targets the GnRH receptor to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone.

As tislelizum­ab gains trac­tion in Chi­na, BeiGene pulls the cur­tain on NSCLC da­ta sup­port­ing the PD-1 drug

In a world now brimming with checkpoint inhibitors, companies often struggle to make a mark given a raft of therapies have already captured a considerable portion of the vast oncology market.

BeiGene’s tislelizumab was the fourth PD(L)-1 inhibitor to secure approval in China — and as it works on expanding its share the company has put out detailed data on the use of the drug in certain patients with lung cancer.

David Chang, Allogene CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Head­ed to PhII: Al­lo­gene CEO David Chang com­pletes a pos­i­tive ear­ly snap­shot of their off-the-shelf CAR-T pi­o­neer

Allogene CEO David Chang has completed the upbeat first portrait of the biotech’s off-the-shelf CAR-T contender ALLO-501 at virtual ASCO today, keeping all eyes on a drug that will now try to go on to replace the first-wave personalized pioneers he helped create.

The overall response rate outlined in Allogene’s abstract for treatment-resistant patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma slipped a little from the leadup, but if you narrow the patient profile to treatment-naïve patients — removing the 3 who had previous CAR-T therapy who didn’t respond, leaving 16 — the ORR lands at 75% with a 44% complete response rate. And 9 of the 12 responders remained in response at the data cutoff, offering a glimpse on durability that still has a long way to go before it can be completely nailed down.

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Sanofi brings in 4 new ex­ec­u­tives in con­tin­ued shake-up, as vac­cines and con­sumer health chief head out the door

In the middle of Sanofi’s multi-pronged race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, David Loew, the head of their sprawling vaccines unit, is leaving – part of the final flurry of moves in the French giant’ months-long corporate shuffle that will give them new-look leadership under new CEO Paul Hudson.

The company also said today that Alan Main, the head of their consumer healthcare unit, is out, and they named 4 executives to fill new or newly vacated positions, 3 of whom come from both outside both Sanofi and from Pharma.

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Fabrice Chouraqui, Cellarity CEO-partner (LinkedIn)

Drug de­vel­op­er, Big Phar­ma com­mer­cial ex­ec, now an up­start biotech chief — Fab­rice Chouraqui is ready to try some­thing new as a ‘CEO-part­ner’ at Flag­ship

Fabrice Chouraqui’s career has taken some big twists along his life journey. He got his PharmD at Université Paris Descartes and jumped into the drug development game for a bit. Then he took a sharp turn and went back to school to get his MBA at Insead before returning to pharma on the commercial side.

Twenty years later, after steadily rising through the ranks and journeying the globe to nab a top job as president of US pharma for the Basel-based Novartis, Chouraqui exited in another career switch. And now he’s headed into a hybrid position as a CEO-partner at Flagship, where he’ll take a shot at leading Cellarity — one of the VC’s latest paradigm-changing companies of the groundbreaking model that aspires to deliver a new platform to the world of drug R&D.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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