Ling Zhen, ClinChoice CEO

UP­DAT­ED: With Lil­ly's back­ing, a CRO with roots in Chi­na bags $150M round to fu­el glob­al growth

A re­named CRO with deep ties in the US and Chi­na has pulled in an­oth­er round of cap­i­tal.

Clin­Choice, for­mer­ly Foun­tain Med­ical De­vel­op­ment, has com­plet­ed a $150 mil­lion Se­ries E fund­ing round, us­ing the cash to con­tin­ue its planned ex­pan­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to Clin­Choice CEO Ling Zhen, the funds from the round will be part of a two-pronged strat­e­gy cen­tered around the com­pa­ny’s phys­i­cal growth. One area will be go­ing to­ward new so­lu­tions such as re­mote mon­i­tor­ing and da­ta an­a­lyt­ics but the oth­er area will be to­ward a ge­o­graph­ic ex­pan­sion.

“We want to use this fund to make some ac­qui­si­tions, ex­pand­ing in­to cer­tain ge­o­graph­ic ar­eas such as West­ern Eu­rope, that’s an area where we have a rel­a­tive­ly low pres­ence, and al­so South East Asia, that’s an­oth­er area where we want to (have) a ma­jor pres­ence. So ba­si­cal­ly, it will be used for both or­gan­ic and in­or­gan­ic growth,” Zhen said in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

The round will give Clin­Choice a run­way of 18-24 months with a pos­si­ble pub­lic of­fer­ing com­ing in at the end.

It has been a few years since the com­pa­ny last raised funds. Back in 2019, the com­pa­ny net­ted a $62 mil­lion Se­ries D from Gold­man Sachs amidst a surge in de­mand for CRO ser­vices. At the time, com­pa­ny ex­ecs were po­si­tion­ing the CRO to cater to small­er biotech com­pa­nies. Since the com­pa­ny’s in­cep­tion in 2007, Clin­Choice has com­plet­ed mul­ti­ple fi­nanc­ing rounds, with in­vest­ments from renowned in­vestors such as Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures and DFJ Drag­on Fund.

Zhen al­so said that since that fund­ing round the com­pa­ny has al­so over­come the chal­lenges pre­sent­ed by the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic and se­cured two ac­qui­si­tions in Asia.

The com­pa­ny was es­tab­lished by Dan Zhang, a for­mer Quin­tiles ex­ec now at IQVIA, but the com­pa­ny main­tains a pres­ence in the US out­side of Philadel­phia as well. It al­so has of­fices in Japan, the UK, In­dia, Ar­me­nia and the Philip­pines, and the com­pa­ny al­so opened a de­vel­op­ment cen­ter in Cana­da last year.

The com­pa­ny now has over 3,000 em­ploy­ees world­wide with the com­pa­ny cov­er­ing most drug de­vel­op­ment ar­eas. The com­pa­ny has al­so formed part­ner­ships with ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions such as SAS and Or­a­cle.

Clin­Choice’s fund­ing comes when weak­en­ing biotech fund­ing is rais­ing doubts about the in­dus­try’s growth prospects, with CRO stocks un­der­per­form­ing in the mar­ket. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from Mizuho, though, in­vestors may be over­look­ing pos­i­tive signs as con­tin­ued tech in­no­va­tion, el­e­vat­ed lev­els of cap­i­tal, pent-up de­mand and pri­vate eq­ui­ty fund­ing in the biotech in­dus­try mean that many CROs could see con­tin­ued growth in the com­ing years.

As for Clin­Choice, Zhen said that the com­pa­ny was more im­pact­ed by the pan­dem­ic, as the com­pa­ny has seen some re­duced spend­ing from their biotech and bio­phar­ma clients, but it has not af­fect­ed their pipeline as a whole.

“We have not seen any ma­jor im­pact on our new busi­ness pipeline in our back­log. I think that has a lot to do with the type of cus­tomers we have cho­sen to fo­cus on and I think in the end, this prob­a­bly gave us an op­por­tu­ni­ty to main­tain our base­line and at the same time to go out to find some rel­a­tive­ly low­er val­ue com­pa­nies to for us to ac­quire so we do see it as an op­por­tu­ni­ty for us to fur­ther grow our busi­ness,” he said.

Leg­end Cap­i­tal led the Se­ries E round and co-in­vest­ed by Taikang Life In­sur­ance, Sher­pa Health­care Part­ners as well as ex­ist­ing share­hold­ers, in­clud­ing Lil­ly Asia Ven­tures and Apri­cot Cap­i­tal par­tic­i­pat­ing.

This sto­ry has been up­dat­ed with com­ments from Ling Zhen. 

UP­DAT­ED: In a fresh dis­ap­point­ment, Am­gen spot­lights a ma­jor safe­ty is­sue with KRAS com­bo

Amgen had hoped that its latest study matching its landmark KRAS G12C drug Lumakras with checkpoint inhibitors would open up its treatment horizons and expand its commercial potential. Instead, the combo spurred safety issues that blunted efficacy and forced the pharma giant to alter course on its treatment strategy, once again disappointing analysts who have been tracking the drug’s faltering sales and limited therapeutic reach.

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Ad­dress­ing the ‘Ca­pac­i­ty Crunch’ with a Scal­able Plat­form Process Ap­proach

The field of gene therapy has been diligently moving forward over the past several decades to bring potentially life-saving treatments to patients with genetic diseases. In addition to two approved adeno-associated viral (AAV) gene therapies, there are more than 250 AAV gene therapies in various clinical trial stages.1 AAV vectors remain the most frequently used vector for delivering therapeutic transgenes to target tissues due to their demonstrated and lasting clinical efficacy and extensive safety track record. As AAV therapies advance through clinical trials and into commercialization, many biotech companies are turning to contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) to prepare their programs for late-stage clinical and commercial scale manufacturing. Given the scope and scale of the manufacturing needs that will accompany regulatory approvals for these assets, CDMOs continue to expand their capacity to meet the needs of increasing prevalent patient populations. However, despite rapid growth, projected gene therapy manufacturing demands still outpace the collective capacity of the CDMO industry.

A $5B Pfiz­er buy­out? Am­gen, Gilead head­line M&A Thurs­day; Al­ny­lam's AT­TR sweep; An­drew Lo's rare dis­ease quest; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

One of the cool things about adding EndpointsPharma to the daily roster is that my colleagues can now dedicate time to tracking quarterly updates and tuning into calls with Big Pharma companies. Check out their dispatch from the Q2 earnings below.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Break­ing: Pfiz­er in hot pur­suit of a $5B buy­out of Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics — re­port

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has vowed to leave no stone unturned in the search for new biotech deals, and the BD team is not letting him down.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Pfizer is in the final stages of acquiring Global Blood Therapeutics for $5 billion. According to the Journal report, though, Pfizer is not the only buyer at the deal table and while the pharma giant may be close to clinching it, there are no guarantees it will continue.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Justin Kase Conder/AP Images for Amgen)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen chief Brad­way nabs a rare dis­ease play­er in $4B buy­out as the M&A tem­po ac­cel­er­ates

Amgen CEO Bob Bradway is bellying up to the M&A table today, scooping up the newly anointed commercial biotech ChemoCentryx $CCXI and its recently approved rare disease drug for $3.7 billion out of the cash stockpile. The deal comes in at $52 a share — a hefty increase over the $24.11 close yesterday.

Bradway and the Amgen team get a drug called Tavneos (avacopan) in the deal, a complement factor C5a inhibitor OK’d to treat anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis, an autoimmune disease which can be lethal.

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George Yancopoulos, Regeneron president and CSO (Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Alamy)

George Yan­copou­los says he's on the trail of the holy grail: ‘This could rep­re­sent the next break­through for im­munother­a­py’

Two of the most outspoken — and successful — drug developers in biotech say they’ve collected early-stage clinical data that are pointing them down the trail to the holy grail in cancer immunotherapy R&D.

While analysts largely busied themselves today with chronicling the ongoing success of Regeneron’s two big cash cows — Dupixent and Eylea — chief scientist George Yancopoulos and CEO Len Schleifer used the Q2 call to spotlight their early success with a combination of the “homegrown” PSMAxCD28 costimulatory bispecific antibody REGN5678 in combination with their PD-1 checkpoint Libtayo. The presentation comes just weeks after Regeneron completed a deal to gather all rights to the PD-1 that had been in Sanofi’s hands. And the two top execs are unstinting in their praise of the potential of a whole set of costimulatory pipeline projects which they say may finally deliver the long-awaited next-level approach to broadening the immunotherapy field of drugs.

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(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

US de­clares mon­key­pox a na­tion­al health emer­gency, as new drug­mak­ers con­sid­er en­ter­ing vac­cine race

Rising monkeypox cases have put the US on high alert as it announces a national health emergency, which grants the government more power in its response.

The news comes as Bavarian Nordic continues to fill orders for its Jynneos vaccine and other companies – including Moderna – consider jumping into the vaccine race. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the US has allowed around 20 million doses of smallpox vaccine in its stockpile to expire.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Bio­haven touts surge in Nurtec sales ahead of Pfiz­er takeover

Forget buyer’s remorse, Pfizer is likely feeling pretty good about its $11.6 billion Biohaven takeover deal following reports of a 57% sales boost for migraine med Nurtec.

Biohaven reported in Q2 results on Friday that it’s cleared the necessary antitrust hurdles to move forward with the sale of its calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) assets to Pfizer. However, because the company is “focused on workstreams related to the closing” of the deal, it did not host a call with analysts and investors.

Pharma ads are showing up on cooler screens at retail pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, under a new OptimizeRx deal (OptimizeRx)

Phar­ma brands chill in the phar­ma­cy re­tail aisle with new style ads on re­frig­er­a­tion screens

Want a prescription drug with that soda? While not directly possible, ads for pharma brands now running on beverage and snack cooler screens at pharmacy retailers may at least inspire customers to think about it.

OptimizeRx is hooking up with Cooler Screens media company to bring prescription drug advertising to refrigerator front doors at pharmacies including Walgreens, CVS and Kroger.

The “point of dispense” ads show a full-door image on the cooler doors when a shopper is 12 feet away, but shrinks down to a smaller banner-sized ad so that the refrigerator contents can be seen when a person gets closer. The doors — which have to be specially installed by Cooler Screens — can detect when a person is nearby, how long a person “dwells” in front of the ad and if they do or don’t open the door.

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