Apexigen, a small company in California, just closed a couple rounds of cash totaling $73 million — mostly from Chinese investors — to push forward a slew of immuno-oncology programs.
The company is using the capital to advance its lead product candidate called APX005M, a monoclonal antibody targeting CD40. Apexigen is already in several Phase II studies on the drug, testing different types of cancer including melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and renal cell carcinoma in various combos with immunotherapy, chemotherapy or radiation.
The money came in two rounds, which Apexigen is announcing all at once: a $15 million Series B led by Shanghai-based Decheng Capital, and a $58 million Series C led by Beijing’s 3E Bioventures, Hong Kong’s Virtus Inspire Ventures, and SV Tech Ventures in San Francisco.
“For APX005M, we are conducting a robust clinical program with 8 ongoing clinical trials, as we believe CD40 activation by APX005M will become a key component in several new I/O therapeutic regimens for treating cancer patients,” said the company’s president and CEO Xiaodong Yang in a news release. “Looking ahead, we will use our powerful discovery research engine to accelerate generation of new I/O therapeutics.”
Interestingly, this little company has an odd connection to Novartis’ blockbuster hopeful RTH258, which is racing towards FDA approval this year. That drug might one day rival Regeneron’s $5 billion Elyea franchise, and it’s one of Novartis’ more promising bets. I was surprised when I saw the drug on Apexigen’s website under “collaborations.”
Mark Nevins, Apexigen’s VP of business development, explained the connection to me: Apexigen once licensed some of its tech to a Swiss company called Esbatech. That company got bought by Alcon, which got bought by Novartis. And now some of Apexigen’s technology is one component of the eye drug now in Phase III trials. Nevins says Apexigen receives royalties on RTH258. Funny how drugs piecemeal together. It takes a village.
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