China, IPOs

Set to be the first pre-revenue biotech to list in Hong Kong, Ascletis lays out priorities in IPO application

Ascletis is getting the ball rolling on the first pre-revenue biotech IPO in Hong Kong.

Hangzhou-based Ascletis, whose in-house hepatitis C drug is on the brink of approval, has applied to list on the stock exchange of Hong Kong. If it goes through, the bulk of the cash will go toward four core products, which are in NDA, Phase III, Phase II, and Phase I stages respectively.

Wu Jinzi

Founded by ex-GSK exec Wu Jinzi in 2011, Ascletis has a reputation in China for being the first domestic company to develop a hep C cure. The drug, Ganovo, is expected to be approved in Q3 of 2018. The team plans to follow that up with another HCV treatment, ravidasvir (in-licensed from Roche), along with HIV drug ASC09, and liver cancer therapy HASC06.

In a heavily redacted application proof (not to be confused with a prospectus), the biotech broke down how it plans to use the undisclosed amount of funding:

  • 30% for R&D of core product pipeline
  • 25% for commercialization of Ganovo and ravidasvir
  • 15% to in-license new drug candidates, to be identified later
  • 10% for R&D of ASC21, an HCV drug from Medivir
  • 10% to two in-house early-stage programs in HBV and NASH
  • 10% for general purposes

Two previous rounds of financing had brought a collective $155 million into Ascletis’ accounts. Among their backers: C-Bridge Capital, QianHai Equity Investment FOF, Goldman Sachs, and Tasly Pharmaceutical. Wu and his wife are the largest shareholders of the company at the moment, owning over 60% of the shares.

While the company is still running in the red, it began to aggressively build up its commercialization team as early as 2016, which now boasts of 145 members ready to reach out to hundreds of hospitals once Ganovo gets the green light. As a whole, Ascletis, which started out in 2011 with eight staffers, now has 256 employees.

Now that the application is in, regulators will begin vetting the listing in a process that could take up to 12 weeks. Just a few days ago, HKEX announced that they will be helped in this process by a panel of 13 biotech professionals, featuring names like Zai Lab founder Samantha Du and prominent VC Jonathan Wang of OrbiMed Asia.

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and CMS are acting as joint sponsors.


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