Gavin Xia, Alebund CEO and co-founder

Saman­tha Du's Quan Cap­i­tal, Lil­ly Asia back Chi­na's first big kid­ney play

It’s been a good cou­ple years for kid­ney biotechs. Once a bar­ren field, it has since been filled with new com­pa­nies from blue-chip VC firms such as Arch, Ver­sant and Third Rock. Now some top-flight Chi­nese in­vestors are get­ting in on the ac­tion.

Saman­tha Du

Shang­hai-based Ale­bund Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals an­nounced Mon­day that they raised a $60 mil­lion Se­ries B led by Quan Cap­i­tal, the VC firm from Zai Lab co-founder and CEO Saman­tha Du. Quan joined Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures, which in­cu­bat­ed the com­pa­ny be­gin­ning in 2018, among the new com­pa­ny’s most promi­nent back­ers.

De­tails sur­round­ing Ale­bund are sparse, but they said in a re­lease that they are go­ing af­ter the gamut of re­nal con­di­tions, from the ul­tra-ubiq­ui­tous chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease to the rare in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­ease IgA nephropa­thy. The com­pa­ny claims they are the first in Chi­na fo­cused ex­clu­sive­ly on de­vel­op­ing nov­el re­nal drugs and that their Se­ries B was the largest ever for a nephrol­o­gy-fo­cused Chi­nese com­pa­ny.

They are led by Gavin Xia, who has been a ven­ture part­ner at Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures since 2018. He serves on the board of two oth­er Lil­ly-backed star­tups, the can­cer test­ing com­pa­ny Sin­glera Ge­nomics and the can­cer ther­a­peu­tics com­pa­ny Ab­bisko.

Al­though the com­pa­ny has not di­vulged most of its drug can­di­dates, their lead pro­gram is al­ready in Phase II for hy­per­phos­phatemia, a con­di­tion where dan­ger­ous lev­els of phos­phate build up in the blood be­cause a pa­tient’s kid­ney isn’t fil­ter­ing the min­er­al prop­er­ly. Ac­cord­ing to a clin­i­cal­tri­ reg­istry, they are try­ing to tack­le the dis­ease with VS-505, a mol­e­cule orig­i­nal­ly de­vel­oped by the small South Dako­ta-based biotech Vi­dasym.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2016 pa­per in the British Jour­nal of Phar­ma­col­o­gy, VS-505 is de­rived from aca­cia tree sap and de­signed to bind to phos­phate in the blood with min­i­mal side ef­fects. Jin Tian, who leads clin­i­cal stud­ies at Vi­dasym, is al­so co-founder and CMO of Ale­bund. Ale­bund hopes to launch a piv­otal Phase III study next year.

Ale­bund said they will al­so use the funds to help build their man­u­fac­tur­ing site.

The com­pa­ny ar­gued in the re­lease that their work was par­tic­u­lar­ly im­por­tant now, as chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease has risen world­wide. They cit­ed epi­demi­o­log­i­cal da­ta that sug­gest as many 120 mil­lion peo­ple in Chi­na are liv­ing with CKD, the vast ma­jor­i­ty of them un­di­ag­nosed.

Un­lock­ing ESG strate­gies for growth with Gilead Sci­ences

RBC Capital Markets explores what is material in ESG for biopharma companies with the ESG leads at Gilead Sciences. Gilead has long focused on sustainability but recognized a more robust framework was needed. Based on a materiality assessment, Gilead’s ESG strategy today focuses first on drug access and pricing, while also addressing D&I and climate change. Find out why Gilead’s board is “acutely aware” of the contribution that ESG makes to firm’s overall success.

On the hunt for the next Mod­er­na, in­vestors have pumped 'plat­form plays' with cash. Can any­thing slow the run­away train?

It didn’t take an expert to see that mRNA platforms could be huge.

Julie Sunderland partnered with both Moderna and BioNTech about a decade ago while she was running program-related investments for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and even then the potential for their platforms was obvious despite some well-founded concerns about whether the next-gen tech would ever cross the finish line.

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Neu­rona Ther­a­peu­tics is dash­ing to the clin­ic with its cell ther­a­py for epilep­sy — but first, an­oth­er ven­ture round

Six years ago, a band of neuroscientists from the University of California, San Francisco combined decades of research and jumped into the hunt for an off-the-shelf cell therapy. Now, that team is sprinting toward the clinic with a treatment for epilepsy — but first, it’s making a pit stop at the venture well.

Neurona Therapeutics unveiled a $41.5 million round on Tuesday morning, bringing the San Francisco-based biotech’s total raise to $135 million. The cash will be used to advance the company’s pipeline, including an upcoming Phase I/IIa for its lead candidate, NRTX-1001, in chronic focal epilepsy.

Viswa Colluru, Enveda Biosciences

A Re­cur­sion vet­er­an is map­ping plant life to chart a course to new ther­a­pies — and in­vestors like what they see

One of the earliest employees at AI biotech Recursion Pharmaceuticals is leading a new company, and he’s just closed a hefty Series A to get things moving.

Enveda Biosciences pulled in $51 million in the raise, the company announced Tuesday morning, with the goal of pushing some of its preclinical programs further along. Led by CEO Viswa Colluru, Enveda aims to research how machine learning can utilize natural biology to create new therapies for Wilson’s Disease, NASH and Parkinson’s disease, among others.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) with reporters in the Senate Subway (Graeme Sloan/Sipa via AP Images)

Top Wyden pri­or­i­ty for drug price re­forms: Medicare ne­go­ti­a­tions

As the Biden administration tries to wrangle the details of its infrastructure bill, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) took a concrete step forward on drug pricing reforms on Tuesday and unveiled five principles for such reforms, including providing Medicare with the ability to negotiate prices.

“Allowing the Secretary of HHS to negotiate the price Medicare will pay creates a much needed mechanism to achieve fairer prices when the market has failed to do so,” Wyden wrote.

Roche's Alzheimer's drug spurred bio­mark­er changes but no cog­ni­tive im­pact — pa­per; vTv out-li­cens­es for­mer lead pro­gram

More than a year ago, Roche and Eli Lilly were forced to contend with a Phase II/III failure of their respective Alzheimer’s drugs. But while Eli Lilly essentially threw in the towels, Roche wasn’t ready to give up yet.

The Swiss drugmaker now has some biomarker data to spotlight as investigators continue monitoring patients in an open-label extension study.

Dubbed DIAN-TU, the study had been designed to see whether Roche’s gantenerumab and Lilly’s solanezumab could spur a cognitive benefit for a group of patients who had a rare, inherited form of Alzheimer’s that’d tied to early-onset. In short, they didn’t: Both failed the primary endpoint.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Mer­ck­'s Keytru­da blazes a path in first-line cer­vi­cal can­cer, mak­ing good on drug­mak­er's push for ear­li­er pa­tients

In the years since I/O wonder drug Keytruda’s initial approval, Merck has struck an aggressive clinical trial program, which is now firmly focused on earlier lines of therapy. The drugmaker has scored some success there so far, and now it’s earned one of its biggest wins yet.

Keytruda plus chemotherapy with or without background Avastin significantly extended patients’ lives over those dosed with a placebo control in first-line patients with persistent, recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer, according to top-line data from the Phase III KEYNOTE-826 study revealed Tuesday.

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End­points News is now 5 years old. Here's how you can sup­port us for the next phase of growth

Endpoints News turned five years old over the weekend. I wanted to mark the happy occasion by extending our deepest gratitude to Endpoints’ premium subscribers while outlining several other ways to support us as we go broader and get bigger this year and beyond.

Same as any business, we’ve got to create value and get paid for delivering it. So if you depend on Endpoints to stay abreast on biopharma developments, we depend on you too.

Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

Ac­tivist in­vestor El­liott in talks with oth­er Glax­o­SmithK­line in­vestors about re­plac­ing Em­ma Walm­s­ley, spin­ning off vac­cine busi­ness — re­port

As Emma Walmsley reveals details this Wednesday about the upcoming split of GlaxoSmithKline’s pharma and consumer units, some tough questions may be coming her way.

Elliott Management, the activist investor that’s previously threatened an attack on GSK (but eventually backed off), is floating more radical changes like replacing the CEO, further breaking up the company and spinning out the vaccine unit, or reviewing the focus on cancer drugs, the Financial Times reported.

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