publication date: Aug 7, 2021
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD
Deals and Financings
Pacific Biosciences (NSDQ: PACB), a San Francisco Bay area company offering long-read sequencing platforms, will acquire Omniome, a San Diego short-read company, for up to $800 million (see story). With the acquisition, PacBio will be the only company to offer highly accurate long-read and short-read sequencing programs. PacBio said combining the two technologies will expand its market and provide more value to clients. Decheng Capital, a Shanghai venture firm, led Omniome's $60 million Series B and participated in its $60 million Series C financing.
Shanghai's Zai Lab (NSDQ: ZLAB; HKEX: 9688) and Schrödinger (NSDQ: SDGR) of New York formed a global collaboration to develop a novel oncology product targeting DNA damage (see story). Schrödinger has developed a physics-based software platform to identify new drug candidates. Zai Lab will make an upfront payment to Schrödinger to fund part of Schrödinger's research costs. Schrödinger will be eligible to receive up to $338 million in milestone payments. Once a candidate is identified, Zai will assume responsibility for development, manufacturing and commercialization.
Berry Oncology Corporation completed a $99 million Series B round to support its portfolio of genomic testing products and services for oncology (see story). In 2017, Berry Oncology was spun out from Berry Genomics, an early cancer screening firm. Its offerings include cancer genetic susceptibility analysis, early screening, plus companion diagnostics, response monitoring and prognosis predictions of targeted and immune therapies. With the new funding, the company has raised $309 million it total, the highest in its industry.
Shanghai Zentera Therapeutics raised $75 million in a Series B financing to support clinical development of its three main cancer drug candidates (see story). In 2020, Zentera was formed by Zentalis Pharma (NSDQ: ZNTL) of New York City as a JV for China development of its assets, which target cancer biological pathways. Zentera will use the proceeds for clinical development and to add new candidates to its portfolio. Founding investors OrbiMed Advisors Asia and Tybourne Capital Management led the B round.
Engrail Therapeutics™, a San Diego neuroscience company, closed a $32 million extension of its Series A financing (see story). With the $32 million, the total raised in the Series A is now $64 million, all of it from Nan Fung Life Sciences of Hong Kong. In addition, NFLS made a long-term commitment to invest $2 billion in the life science sector, which will enable Engrail to acquire assets with validated mechanisms for nervous system diseases. Engrail is open to licensing, co-development and acquisition deals. It acquires products while also developing candidates in-house.
Shanghai Henlius Biotech (HK: 2696) will collaborate with Shanghai Promega to provide a companion IVD kit for serplulimab, its anti-PD-1 drug (see story). Henlius will develop Promega's OncoMate™ MSI Dx Analysis System to determine microsatellite instability (MSI) status in solid tumor cancers. Patients with high levels of MSA have been shown to react well to immune checkpoint inhibitors, including PD-1 therapies. Promega is a global research tools company that is headquartered in Wisconsin. Henlius, a Fosun Pharma spin-out, focuses on biologic drug development.
Trials and Approvals
Akeso (HK: 9926) and Sino Bio (HK: 1177) were approved to launch their partnered anti-PD-1 injection in China for classic Hodgkin's lymphoma (see story). According to the companies, Penpulimab is currently the only PD-1 that applies IgG1 subtype and is modified by Fc segment, giving it a lower antigen binding dissociation rate and a unique binding epitope. As a result, Penpulimab offers effective and continuous blocking of PD-1/PD-L1 binding. This enhances the immunotherapeutic efficacy and reduces immune-related adverse reactions, the companies believe.
BeyondSpring (NSDQ: BYSI), a New York-China pharma, reported its lead asset, plinabulin, posted positive topline data in a US Phase III trial among NSCLC patients (see story). Plinabulin is a selective immunomodulating microtubule-binding agent (SIMBA) that induces antigen presenting cells. It was tested in combination with docetaxel to treat 2nd and 3rd line NSCLC and compared to docetaxel alone. BeyondSpring will file for US approval of plinabulin in NSCLC, its second indication following chemotherapy-induced neutropenia. Decheng has made multiple investments in BeyondSpring.
Shenzhen ImmVira was approved start a Phase I trial of its lead intravenous oncolytic virus therapy in China (see story). The company says the product is the first IV oncolytic virus in the world to start clinical trials. MVR-T3011 is a novel genetic engineered oHSV (herpes virus) that uses attenuated HSV-1, which is designed for best replication potency and safety. It is a 3-in-1 oHSV containing both a PD1 mAb and IL12. ImmVira says the candidate is a novel next-gen design based on ImmVira's oncolytic viruses insights and gene recombinant technology.
Suzhou's Transcenta Holding was granted Orphan Drug Designation in the US for its anti-Claudin18.2 mAb in patients with or gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancers (GC/GEJ) (see story). TST001, the company's lead drug, is currently in a US Phase I trial. In preclinical studies, TST001 showed potent anti-tumor activities in tumor models of gastric cancer or gastric cancers expressing Claudin18.2. Although gastric cancer is a rare disease in the US, its incidence in China is much higher.
ASO Bio, a Nanjing biotech, was approved to start clinical trials of its autologous CD19/CD22 CAR-T therapy for two indications (see story). IASO said CT120’s dual-target design addresses tumor escape, a problem caused by target antigen loss that affects existing CAR-T therapies. The company expects CT120 will reduce relapse and improve survival. In-house developed CT120 will be tested to treat relapsed/refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and relapsed/refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In general, IASO targets B-cell malignancies.