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. 

Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL lands FDA ap­proval for he­mo­phil­ia B gene ther­a­py, sets $3.5M list price

The FDA has approved the world’s first gene therapy for hemophilia B, ushering into the market a treatment that’s historic in both what it promises to do and how much it will cost.

CSL will be marketing the drug, Hemgenix, at a list price of $3.5 million — which sets a new record for the most expensive single-use gene therapy in the US.

In a statement provided to Endpoints News, the Australian company noted that the current costs of treating people with moderate to severe hemophilia B can be significant over a lifetime. By some estimates, healthcare systems could spend more than $20 million per person.

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Image: Shutterstock

MIT re­searchers re­veal DNA "Paste" tech be­hind lat­est gene edit­ing start­up

MIT scientists have developed a tool that they say can insert large gene sequences where they want in the genome.

In a paper published Thursday in Nature Biotechnology, MIT fellows Omar Abudayyeh, Jonathan Gootenberg and colleagues detail a technology they call PASTE, which they say can potentially be used to insert long strands of DNA and treat genetic diseases caused by many different mutations, such as cystic fibrosis and Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare eye disorder that causes blindness.

Elon Musk (GDA via AP Images)

Biggest drug com­pa­nies halt­ed Twit­ter ad buys af­ter Lil­ly in­sulin spoof

Almost all of the drug industry’s biggest advertisers cut their spending on Twitter to zero or near-zero over the last two weeks amid worries about impersonation of their brands by pranksters and the future of the social media company.

Among 18 of the biggest pharmaceutical advertisers in the US market, 12 cut their Twitter ad spending to nothing for the week beginning Nov. 14, according to Pathmatics, which tracks data on prescription drug ad spending as well as general corporate advertising. The list of drugmakers cutting spending to zero includes Merck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer and others.

Rob Davis, Merck CEO

Up­dat­ed: No Seagen here: 'Do more' means a small $1.35B pur­chase of Ima­go for Mer­ck

Merck is making an acquisition, the Big Pharma announced before Monday’s opening bell. No, Seagen is not entering the fold, as had been speculated for quarters.

Folding under Merck’s wings will be Pfizer-backed Imago BioSciences. For nearly a year, Merck CEO Rob Davis has been saying the pharma giant needs to “do more” on the business development front after its 2021 $11.5 billion acquisition of Acceleron.

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Andrew Phillips, Nexo Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Ver­sant, NEA launch new biotech helmed by ex-CEO of pro­tein de­grad­er C4 Ther­a­peu­tics

Long-time biotech venture firms Versant and New Enterprise Associates are backing a new startup run by former C4 Therapeutics chief executive Andrew Phillips.

The fledgling biotech has raised at least $30 million so far, according to paperwork filed with the SEC this week. The round could balloon to $60 million.

Phillips, who left protein degradation startup C4 in 2020 to be a managing director at Cormorant Asset Management, is running the show of the new venture as president, the SEC filing outlines. He also served as interim CEO of Cormorant-backed and Hansoh Pharmaceutical-partnered Blossom Bioscience last year.

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J&J's Spra­va­to pulls a PhI­II win against Sero­quel XR in treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion

A day before Thanksgiving, J&J’s Janssen has a new cut of Phase III Spravato data to be grateful for.

The pharma giant announced on Wednesday that its nasal spray, also known as esketamine, beat extended-release quetiapine, previously sold by AstraZeneca as Seroquel XR, in treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Of 676 adults, a significantly higher number of patients on Spravato were able to achieve remission and avoid relapse after 32 weeks, according to J&J.

Dermavant Sciences' first consumer TV ad for its Vtama psoriasis med shows people ready for a new topical treatment.

Roivant’s Der­ma­vant de­buts first-ever TV com­mer­cial for pso­ri­a­sis cream Vta­ma

Dermavant Sciences has been marketing its first product, psoriasis med Vtama, to dermatologists for months, but on Tuesday it rolled out its first consumer campaign. The debut DTC effort including a streaming TV commercial encourages patients to a “Topical Uprising” in a nod to Vtama being a topical cream.

In the new commercial, a swell of people discards scarves and jacket coverings, gathering in the street to converge on a pharmacy to demand a steroid-free prescription. A moment of levity follows when a pharmacist says, “You know you can just talk to your doctor, right?” The gathered crowds collectively says, “Oh.”

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FDA preps for DMD drug gener­ics as Sarep­ta has yet to fin­ish its con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al

The FDA typically releases guidance to help generic drug manufacturers develop new copycats of small molecule drugs, oftentimes in preparation for a brand name product’s patents or exclusivity to expire.

This week, FDA released such bioequivalence guidance for any generic drugmakers looking to take on Sarepta’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) drug Exondys 51 (eteplirsen), even though the drug’s sponsor has yet to convert the accelerated approval to a full approval, showing clinical benefit.