Teamed up with Lyell, Juno/WuXi joint venture files IPO betting on China's CAR-T future
JW Therapeutics got its start on the back of CAR-T tech from Juno Therapeutics, a joint venture banking on the promise of marrying cutting-edge American technology with WuXi AppTec’s state-of-the-art process development and late-stage clinical infrastructure in China. Four years later, a collaboration with a Juno co-founder’s new startup is cementing a bridge to the public market.
Lyell has granted JW exclusive China rights to two CAR-T programs targeting AFP and GPC3, antigens applicable broadly across solid tumors, the companies announced last week. JW noted in its IPO filing on the Hong Kong stock exchange that it’s also nabbed rights to the T-cell anti-exhaustion functionality.
“Substantial” milestones and royalty payments aren’t due until the first Lyell therapy is approved in JW territory.
The collaboration follows a deal with Eureka Therapeutics, a California-based partner of both Juno and Lyell, through which JW acquired Syracuse — Eureka’s Chinese subsidiary — and its underlying tech platform. Eureka CEO Cheng Liu joined the JW board in hopes of joining forces to build the leading cell therapy company in China.
“Eureka still keep their independence outside China, they will do their own things,” JW chief James Li said at the time. “But in China we combine their early discovery power with our late-stage development and, eventually we are launching our product next year, commercial capabilities.”
While the terms went undisclosed, JW now reveals that the acquisition was valued at $105 million.
Both the Lyell and Eureka pacts are explicitly focused on solid tumors, initially starting out in hepatocellular carcinoma.
“One thing we’ve been thinking hard in the past couple years is how we can get into the solid tumor space, which is absolutely — to me, it’s the future of cell therapy,” Li told Endpoints News.
Being one of the pioneers alongside Fosun Kite and Legend, he said, has allowed JW to think ahead of newer rivals both in terms of establishing the best practices and thinking ahead of the competition.
It’s not done with the deal spree. JW noted that it’s planning to use parts of the IPO proceds to execute its options on a couple of off-the-shelf natural killer cell therapy candidates from Taiwan’s Acepodia, targeting HER2 and another undisclosed target.
Regulators at the National Medical Products Administration have accepted its NDA for relma-cel, the lead CD19-targeting CAR-T therapy developed from Juno’s program. The initial indication is third-line diffuse large B cell lymphoma — with multiple other blood cancers lined up behind it.
Behind that there’s a BCMA program for which JW plans to file an IND in the first half of 2021, JW wrote in its IPO application.
Over the years it’s raised $190 million in venture funding, and previous media reports has suggested it’s seeking to raise $200 million to $300 million in the public debut. As is standard on HKEX, JW hasn’t pencilled in any estimates.