Ed Zhang (Overland)

'S­cale and speed': Hill­house puts its weight be­hind Chi­na start­up eye­ing cut­ting-edge tech from around the world

In the rel­a­tive­ly small but hefty world of biotechs work­ing to bring new drugs from the West to Chi­na, Hill­house Cap­i­tal has been an ac­tive, if cau­tious, in­vestor. Not on­ly did it bet big on BeiGene ear­ly, it al­so co-led Ever­est Med­i­cines’ mon­ster $310 mil­lion round to bankroll com­mer­cial launch­es ear­li­er this year.

But now it’s go­ing all-in with its own start­up — and a twist to the mod­el.

Hua Mu

Ed Zhang and Hua Mu, ven­ture part­ners who joined the firm ear­ly this year, are the co-founders of Over­land Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Oth­er than the ini­tial fo­cus on on­col­o­gy, au­toim­mune dis­eases and car­diometa­bol­ic dis­or­ders, the duo isn’t dis­clos­ing much about the com­pa­ny yet, al­though it’s clear that Hill­house, which had $10.6 bil­lion to spend for its last fund, isn’t hold­ing any mon­ey back when it comes to fund­ing deals and woo­ing tal­ent.

While the set­up echoes what Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors is do­ing through Lian­Bio, Over­land says it’s eye­ing a dif­fer­ent mar­ket by tar­get­ing plat­form plays that in­volve ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies. Think an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates, cell ther­a­py, RNAi and more.

“From a part­ner­ing per­spec­tive, I would def­i­nite­ly say we’re more flex­i­ble than oth­er typ­i­cal in-li­cens­ing mod­els,” said Ed Zhang, the CBO and COO, for whom “scale and speed” is a mantra.

That means opt­ing for co-de­vel­op­ment rather than sim­ple li­cens­ing, cre­at­ing spin­outs or joint ven­tures to col­lab­o­rate on mul­ti­ple ear­ly-stage as­sets, or even con­sid­er­ing eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment in their part­ner com­pa­nies.

Sta­tioned right in Boston, Zhang will lever­age the net­works he’s de­vel­oped over the last two decades across mul­ti­ple bio­phar­ma roles. Mean­while, Mu, the in­ter­im CEO and CMO, will split his time be­tween Seat­tle and the two Chi­na of­fices in Bei­jing and Shang­hai.

Pi­o­neers like Zai Lab and Ever­est, Mu not­ed, have “set a very high bar” for Chi­na-fac­ing com­pa­nies look­ing to bridge the in­no­va­tion gap.

“In the past, I think the fo­cus was more on the ex­e­cu­tion, op­er­a­tional fu­tures, right, be­cause those as­sets had al­ready mit­i­gat­ed risk be­fore,” Mu said, giv­ing the ex­am­ple of Ze­ju­la, which Zai Lab li­censed from Tesaro when it was in Phase III. “The key was how to ex­e­cute the pro­gram, de­vel­op­ment and reg­is­tra­tion in Chi­na.”

At a time when Chi­nese in­ter­est in cut­ting-edge drugs and tech­nolo­gies runs high, thanks in part to reg­u­la­to­ry re­forms and free flow of VC cash, that’s no longer enough. For new­com­ers, the cur­rent land­scape re­quires them to work more close­ly with col­lab­o­ra­tors, in­te­grat­ing lo­cal ex­per­tise with glob­al knowl­edge — a “much more so­phis­ti­cat­ed and de­mand­ing” ap­proach. But it’s al­so the kind of chal­lenge that Over­land was built to meet.

By tap­ping in­to Hill­house’s glob­al net­work and biotech ecosys­tem in Asia, the com­pa­ny promis­es to put to­geth­er the de­vel­op­ment, man­u­fac­tur­ing and com­mer­cial know-how that would con­vince top-notch de­vel­op­ers to en­trust Over­land with their as­sets.

“In­vest­ing or part­ner­ing with those tech­nol­o­gy plat­form com­pa­nies re­quire a dif­fer­ent lev­el of cap­i­tal re­sources and ex­per­tise in those li­censed ter­ri­to­ries,” Zhang said. “But ac­tu­al­ly that is by de­sign. That is our fo­cus.”

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Mer­ck scraps Covid-19 vac­cine pro­grams af­ter they fail to mea­sure up on ef­fi­ca­cy in an­oth­er ma­jor set­back in the glob­al fight

After turning up late to the vaccine development game in the global fight against Covid-19, Merck is now making a quick exit.

The pharma giant is reporting this morning that it’s decided to drop development of 2 vaccines — V590 and V591 — after taking a look at Phase I data that simply don’t measure up to either the natural immune response seen in people exposed to the virus or the vaccines already on or near the market.

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Bahija Jallal, Immunocore

Buried in Im­muno­core's IPO fil­ings? A kick­back scheme from a now for­mer em­ploy­ee

Immunocore spent much of 2019 dealing with the fallout of the Neil Woodford scandal, as the former star investor’s fall crashed the biotech’s valuation out of unicorn range. Now it turns out that the company spent 2020 dealing with another internal scandal.

The longtime UK biotech darling disclosed in their IPO filing last week that they had fallen victim to an alleged kickback scheme involving one of their employees. After a whistleblower came forward, they said in their F-1, they spent the summer and spring investigating, finding fraud on the part of an employee and two outside vendors.

Can strug­gling Iterum turn the cor­ner to an an­tibi­ot­ic suc­cess sto­ry? They will know in six months

More than five years after Corey Fishman and Michael Dunne dusted sulopenem off Pfizer’s shelves — the second castoff antibiotic they’ve brought out of the pharma giant — and founded Iterum Therapeutics around that single drug, they have lined up a quick shot at approval with priority review from the FDA.

The decision, six months from now, will mark a make-or-break moment for a struggling biotech that has just enough cash to keep the lights on until the third quarter.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na dou­bles down on Covid-19 with new boost­er tri­als; Aus­tralia plans do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of As­traZeneca vac­cine amid dis­tri­b­u­tion lag

As Merck bows out of the global race to develop vaccines for Covid-19, Moderna is doubling down to make sure they can quell new variants that have recently emerged and quickly spread.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech put out word on Monday that in vivo studies indicate their mRNA vaccine works well enough against two strains first detected in the UK and South Africa. But with a six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers observed against the latter strain, the company is launching a new study of a booster version to make sure it can do the job.

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Jean-Christophe-Hyvert, Lonza

Lon­za look­ing to build on 'd­if­fer­en­ti­at­ed ad­van­tage' in Covid-19, CD­MO mar­ket­place in 2021

It’s not new for Lonza, the Swiss CDMO nearing its quasquicentennial anniversary, to be in the upper echelon of the biotech manufacturing industry.

But 2020 — as it was for many CDMOs — was a special year even by Lonza’s standards. The company inked a deal to produce 1 billion worldwide doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine and tapped pharma vet Pierre-Alain Ruffieux to lead its operations, moves which have allowed Lonza to make a myriad of other deals that will continue to ramp up its global production capacity.

Matt Gline (L) and Vivek Ramaswamy

Scoop: Vivek Ra­maswamy is hand­ing the CEO job to a top lieu­tenant at Roivant — but he’s not ex­act­ly leav­ing the biotech scene

Over the past 7 years since founding Roivant, Vivek Ramaswamy has been a constant blur of biotech building motion.

He launched his first biotech with an Alzheimer’s drug he picked up cheap, and watched the experiment implode in one of the highest profile pivotal disasters seen in the last decade. But it didn’t slow the 30-something exec down; if anything, he hit the accelerator. Ramaswamy blazed global paths and went on to raise billions to spur the creation of a large lineup of little Vants promising big things at a fast pace. He sold off a section of the Vant brigade to Sumitomo Dainippon for $3 billion. And more recently the relentless dealmaker has been building a computational discovery arm to add an AI-driven approach to kicking up new programs and companies, supplementing the in-licensing drive while pursuing advances that have created more than 700 jobs at Roivant, with $2 billion in reserves.

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News brief­ing: Jef­frey Lei­den to chair Tmu­ni­ty board of di­rec­tors; Op­di­vo wins new ap­proval in ad­vanced RCC

Longtime Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden is taking on a new role.

Leiden has been appointed chairman of Tmunity’s board of directors, the company announced Monday. The move comes about a year and a half after Leiden announced he’d be stepping down from his position at Vertex.

Vertex saw immense growth under Leiden, leading the company from its exit out of hepatitis C, when cures were moving in, and into cystic fibrosis. The company’s cystic fibrosis triple combo therapy Trikafta is already its best-seller, reaching the distinction just six weeks after launch and recording the strongest first quarter of sales for any drug, per some estimates.

IPO track­er: 2021 gets start­ed with a flur­ry of new of­fer­ings

A global pandemic couldn’t slow down what turned out to be a record year for biotech IPOs. With the calendar turning toward 2021, the Endpoints News team is prepped to track each new filing this year, and the outcome. We’re off to another hot start at least.

Below, you’ll find the companies that have filed to go public, in addition to those that have already priced. Through the first two business weeks of January, there have already been 9 biotechs that have filed or priced, and the number is only expected to grow. We’ll keep the tracker updated as it does.