Trade ten­sions are im­ped­ing the flow of Chi­nese mon­ey to US biotechs — but how much?

US biotechs have seen a dras­tic drop in Chi­nese ven­ture fund­ing for the in­dus­try amid macro lev­el trade ten­sions be­tween the two coun­tries and the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment’s height­ened scruti­ny of for­eign in­vest­ment. While VCs from Chi­na ac­count­ed for $1.65 bil­lion worth of fund­ing in the first half of last year, that fig­ure has fall­en near­ly 60% to $725 mil­lion in 2019, the Fi­nan­cial Times re­port­ed cit­ing Pitch­Book da­ta.

The once-ob­scure Com­mit­tee on For­eign In­vest­ment in the Unit­ed States (CFIUS) be­came a house­hold name in this world late 2018 when it broad­ened its re­view of for­eign in­vest­ment in biotech for na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty rea­sons. It has since stirred up fears that fledg­ling US biotechs may have trou­ble ac­cess­ing deep wells of Chi­na mon­ey, though VCs have large­ly played down the wor­ries.

So far, there’s on­ly been one known in­stance of di­rect CFIUS in­ter­fer­ence in­to health­care. The com­mit­tee is said to have de­mand­ed that Pa­tients­LikeMe — an on­line ser­vice con­nect­ing pa­tients with each oth­er and gen­er­at­ing re­al-world da­ta in the process — sell off the ma­jor­i­ty stake held by Shen­zhen-based health da­ta com­pa­ny iCar­bonX. (Pa­tients­LikeMe was ul­ti­mate­ly ac­quired by Unit­ed­Health.) Nev­er­the­less, it is un­clear how many fund­ing rounds might have fiz­zled in the head­wind.

William Hasel­tine

At least one, ac­cord­ing to William Hasel­tine, the re­searcher and en­tre­pre­neur be­hind mul­ti­ple star­tups in­clud­ing Den­dreon, Cam­bridge Bio­sciences and X-VAX.

Hasel­tine told the FT that he had been forced to aban­don a new project af­ter a Chi­nese in­vestor called off a $30 mil­lion seed deal. In his ex­pe­ri­ence, Chi­nese fund­ing has been par­tic­u­lar­ly good at bankrolling very ear­ly-stage com­pa­nies gen­er­ous­ly.

“As soon as the Cfius pro­gramme went in­to place and [US Pres­i­dent Don­ald] Trump start­ed mak­ing a lot of noise about Cfius, [the mon­ey] be­gan to evap­o­rate,” he said to the pa­per.

Fo­s­un In­ter­na­tion­al, the con­glom­er­ate that has its own bio­phar­ma busi­ness in Chi­na, has in­di­cat­ed that it’s turn­ing greater at­ten­tion to emerg­ing mar­kets as trade re­la­tions with the US grow in­creas­ing­ly frayed.

“Trade fric­tion has im­pact­ed our in­vest­ments in the US, but not to the ex­tent of stop­ping all deals,” Kevin Xie, who man­ages its US strat­e­gy, told Bloomberg.

Leon Chen of 6 Di­men­sions Cap­i­tal at the US-Chi­na Bio­phar­ma In­no­va­tion and In­vest­ment Sum­mit in Shang­hai on Oc­to­ber 23, 2018; Cred­it: End­points News, Pharm­Cube

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

At the same time, it’s worth not­ing that some of the most well known Chi­nese VC firms — such as 6 Di­men­sions and Qim­ing Ven­tures — have ded­i­cat­ed state­side funds in­vest­ing with US dol­lars.

Leon Chen of 6 Di­men­sions pre­vi­ous­ly told me that he’s not over­ly con­cerned about CFIUS re­views as they will abide by the sys­tem — even if it slows down the process.

“This in­dus­try needs more cap­i­tal than the cur­rent in­vest­ment can sup­ply, and the in­dus­try needs much much more risk tak­ing in­vestors than cur­rent­ly we can prac­ti­cal­ly count,” he said.

Frank Yu Al­ly Bridge

Frank Yu, founder and CEO of Al­ly Bridge Group, echoes that sen­ti­ment. Sure, life sci­ences care about how they would man­age CFIUS is­sues as a non-US in­vestor, but their un­der­stand­ing of what they’re in­vest­ing in and the ca­pa­bil­i­ty to add val­ue are more im­por­tant.

“We are per­ceived as a tru­ly glob­al life sci­ence spe­cial­ist in­vestor rather than a Chi­na VC,” he wrote in an email. “We un­der­stand and man­age CFIUS-re­lat­ed is­sues very well, which are very much wel­comed by US com­pa­nies.”

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing the val­ue of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine

By Natasha Cowan, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Latitude Health.
Many stakeholders are confused by novel precision medicines, including patients and healthcare professionals. So, how can industry help them to navigate this complexity?

Precision medicine represents a new paradigm in healthcare. It embodies the shift from treating many patients with the same therapy, to having the tools to identify the best treatment for every patient.

(Image: Associated Press)

Amarin emerges from an ex­pert pan­el re­view with a clear en­dorse­ment for Vas­cepa and high odds of suc­cess when the FDA weighs in for­mal­ly

Several FDA experts who gathered Thursday to consider the landmark approval of Vascepa to reduce cardio events in an at-risk population voiced their unease about various aspects of the efficacy and safety data, or ultimately the population it should be used to treat. But the overwhelming belief that the data pointed to the drug’s benefit and clearly outweighed risks carried the day for Amarin.

The panel voted unanimously (16 to 0) to support the company’s positive data presentation — backing an OK for expanding the label to include reducing cardio risk. The vote points Amarin $AMRN down a short path to a formal decision by the FDA, with the odds heavily in its favor. Chances are the rest of the questions about the future of this drug will be hashed out in the label’s small print.

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What does $62B buy you these days? A lot, says Take­da ex­ecs as the phar­ma play­er promis­es a block­buster R&D fu­ture

First comes the $62 billion buyout. Then comes the asset auction and reorganization to pay down debt. Now comes the detailed pledge of a bigger, brighter future in drug development.

That’s where Takeda finds itself on R&D day today, about 11 months after closing on their Shire acquisition. R&D chief Andy Plump is joining CEO Christophe Weber and other top members of the team to outline a new set of priorities in the greatly expanded pipeline at Takeda, which has jumped into the top ranks of the world’s pharma giants in the wake of the Shire deal.

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BeiGene CEO John Oyler at an Endpoints event in Shanghai, October 2018 (Credit: Endpoints News/PharmCube)

UP­DAT­ED: Chi­na's BeiGene scores first-ever FDA ap­proval — but can they carve up J&J's block­buster fran­chise?

Weeks after Amgen took a $2.7 billion stake in BeiGene, the Beijing-based biotech has secured its first-ever FDA approval for zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor, months ahead of schedule.

BeiGene’s drug, branded as Brukinsa, has secured accelerated approval for adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) — a typically aggressive, rare, form of blood cancer — who have received at least one prior therapy.

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Spe­cial re­port: Twen­ty ex­tra­or­di­nary women in bio­phar­ma R&D who worked their way to the top

What differentiates a woman leader in biopharma R&D from a man?

Not much, except there are fewer of them in senior posts. Data suggest women are not more risk-averse, family-oriented or less confident than their male counterparts — indeed the differences between the two sexes are negligible. But a glance at the top R&D positions in Big Pharma leaves little doubt that upward migration in the executive ranks of biopharma R&D is tough.

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GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala scores in rare blood dis­or­der study

GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug Nucala, which received a resounding FDA rejection for use in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) last year, has shown promise in a rare blood disorder.

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Mer­ck buys a fledg­ling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech spawned by an old GSK dis­cov­ery al­liance. What’s up with that?

Avalon Ventures chief Jay Lichter has a well-known yen for drug development programs picked up in academia. And what he found in Haoxing Xu’s lab at the University of Michigan pricked his interest enough to launch one of his umbrella biotechs in San Diego.

Xu’s work laid the foundation for Avalon to launch Calporta, which has been working on finding small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for lysosomal storage disorders. And that pathway, they believe, points to new approaches on major market neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

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Carson Block. Muddy Waters via YouTube

Shorts ga­lore: Mud­dy Wa­ters sees slide for Pep­tiDream, tweets con­cerns about Fi­bro­Gen's new da­ta

The short seller Muddy Waters is taking aim at Japan’s most profitable biotech, projecting a slide for a company that has skyrocketed over the last four years. Meanwhile, the firm tweeted out an analysis accusing FibroGen of manipulating data to obscure safety concerns in their latest reveal, although some investors seem satisfied by the biotech’s explanation.

Muddy Waters shorted PeptiDream, a Japanese biotech-for-hire that leveraged its peptide library into partnerships with some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, a 50% profit margin and $6 billion valuation. The firm noted that despite its esteem, PeptiDream has failed to bring a drug to market 13 years after its 2006 launch (although this is not especially rare for biotech).

Pin­cer move­ment: Cal­i­for­nia biotech gets $35M to suf­fo­cate can­cer in co­or­di­nat­ed at­tack

Having served in Afghanistan, the navy veteran leading California-based EpicentRx wants to leave no patient behind with his arsenal of anti-cancer drugs. On Thursday, the company was given a $35 million boost to further its mission.

The injection of funds will be used to shepherd its late-stage CD47 drug, RRx-001, to the FDA for marketing, and its oncolytic virus program into the clinic.

RRx-001, engineered as an agent that makes tumor cells more sensitive to therapy, is in a Phase III trial in combination with chemotherapy for use in third-line and beyond small cell lung cancer (SCLC). The drug has been granted orphan drug designation from FDA for SCLC, neuroendocrine cancer and glioblastoma.