What does a post-pandemic IPO filing look like? Hong Kong biotech application offers clues
As Covid-19 becomes a permanent fixture on securities documents, a new biotech IPO filing in Hong Kong has offered a glimpse of what the outlook is like on the other end of the tunnel.
Ocumension had just started a Phase III trial for its lead drug, a corticosteroid-releasing intravitreal implant in-licensed from EyePoint Pharmaceuticals, when the first cases of a mysterious pneumonia were reported in China.
But even as the country went into lockdown, the biotech went on to seal a product transfer and cooperation deal on an eye drop, submit an abbreviated NDA to the National Medical Product Administration, open up a new subsidiary in Suzhou, and launch two new products in the past two months.
Although we experienced a delay in screening patients for the ongoing Phase III clinical trial of OT-401 due to travel restrictions implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19, we had not experienced any early or expected termination of treatment or necessitated removal of any enrolled patients under the trial.
Several trial sites have already resumed enrollment; in other words, there shouldn’t be long-term damage to either the clinical program or the business in general.
Ocumension’s experience could be reflective of what happens to some of the most well-funded teams in China. Incubated at 6 Dimensions, the company enjoys the backing of a marquee syndicate — featuring Temasek, Boyu, General Atlantic, Eight Roads, 3W Partners and Cormorant Asset Management — that has collectively put $200 million in the banks. The Series B came in at a whopping $180 million.
The vision, laid out barely two years ago, was to bring a suite of specialty ophthalmic drugs under the same roof with world-class execution chops to develop, manufacture and sell them.
“In China, eye diseases are common, yet treatment rates are low, lagging significantly behind the United States,” the first few lines of the IPO filing read.
That leaves plenty of room for in-licensing — perhaps more so than hotter areas such as oncology — while conducting original research and discovery. Ocumension’s pipeline features three of the 10 ophthalmic drugs approved by the FDA since 2015 that are still not available domestically.
The most advanced of them is OT-401 or Yutiq, which treats chronic non-infectious uveitis affecting the posterior segment of the eye. Other partnered drugs target diseases like glaucoma, allergic conjunctivitis, wet AMD and postoperative inflammation. Meanwhile Ocumension’s in-house R&D group is also working on their own solutions to bacterial conjunctivitis, dry eye and others.
More recently — this January to be precise — Ocumension broke ground on its own manufacturing facility.
At the helm of the company is Ye Liu, an Eisai veteran who, while serving as the general manager of Japan’s Santen, was credited for leading the construction of what was then the largest manufacturing plant in China. Others on the management team, from CSO Changdong Liu to CMO Donghong Chen, have also held positions in a range of local and multinational drugmakers.
Despite the rosy outlook, though, Ocumension felt the obligation to include this precaution: “We cannot guarantee you, however, that the COVID-19 outbreak will not further escalate or have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.”