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Week in Review: Insilico Closes $255 Million Round for AI Drug Discovery/Development

publication date: Jun 26, 2021
 | 
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD

Deals and Financings

Insilico Medicine, a Hong Kong company devoted to using AI to speed up drug discovery and R&D, closed a $255 million Series C round led by Warburg Pincus (see story). Insilico has said its platforms identified a completely novel target for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and designed a novel molecule in 18 months for only $2 million. The company is developing its own products and has also formed discovery/development partnerships with well-known pharmas. Several of these programs have reached major milestones, Insilico said.  

Jointech, a Hangzhou medical device company, has raised $62 million over the last 15 months to support its orthopedic surgery robot business (see story). The latest funding, a C round worth at least $32 million, was led by Lyfe Capital. The company's surgical robot for total hip replacement is under China special review for innovative medical instruments and is expected to become the first domestic joint replacement surgical robot approved in China. Jointech is also developing a knee replacement robot and other surgical robots.  

Triastek of Nanjing completed a $50 million Series B financing to advance its 3D printed pharmaceutical technology (see story). The company has the first drug candidate from its portfolio in clinical trials and is developing the new manufacturing technology for general use. Triastek says Melt Extrusion Deposition (MED®) 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that precisely deposits each layer of melted excipients, APIs and their mixture materials. It produces a drug delivery system with well-designed geometric structures. The round was co-led by Matrix Partners China and CPE.  

Hangzhou MindRank AI completed a $7 million angel found from Sherpa Medical Fund to develop its AI-based drug development technology (see story). In 2018, MindRank was formed in London, where several prominent AI-drug development companies are located. In late 2020, MindRank moved to Hangzhou to bring its one-stop AI drug research and development technology to China. It plans to ramp up its commercialization cooperation and pipeline development as quickly as possible. Proceeds from this round will be used for team building, business expansion and pipeline development.  

Trials and Approvals 

Fosun Kite Biotech, a Shanghai JV set up to develop Kite's CAR-T therapy in China, reported Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) was approved to treat relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma (see story). Yescarta is the first CAR-T therapy allowed to launch in China. The approval was for third-line treatment. Axicabtagene ciloleucel is an autologous CD19-directed CAR T-cell therapy manufactured in China under a license from Kite. To acquire 50% of the JV, Fosun Pharma agreed to a $95 million package that will entitle it to receive 60% of the profits.  

BeiGene (NSDQ: BGNE; HK: 06160), a Beijing biotech, reported its anti-PD-1 antibody tislelizumab has been approved in China for two new indications, bringing the total to five (see story). The new indications are first-line treatment for advanced non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer and conditional approval as a second-line therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma. In China, tislelizumab in now approved for lung, liver, bladder and lymphoma cancers. Earlier this year, BeiGene out-licensed global ex-China rights for tislelizumab to Novartis (NYSE: NVS) in a $2.2 billion agreement.  

Beijing's BeiGene (NSDQ: BGNE; HK: 06160) was conditionally approved to launch Brukinsa® (zanubrutinib) in China for adult patients with Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia (WM) (see story). In WM patients who had received at least one previous therapy, the single-arm pivotal China Phase II trial of zanubrutinib found 72% of patients experienced a major response rate at a median follow-up time of 15 months. Zanubrutinib is now approved for three B-cell indications in China.  

Shanghai's HutchMed (NSDQ/AIM: HCM) will launch Sulanda® (surufatinib) in China to treat advanced pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs) (see story). Surufatinib inhibits angiogenesis (via VEGFR and FGFR), along with a colony stimulating factor-1 receptor (CSF-1R), which promotes microphages in the tumor environment. In patients with pNETs, surufatinib increased median progression-free survival to 10.9 months compared to 3.7 months for the placebo group. In December 2020, surufatinib was first approved for advanced extra-pancreatic (non-pancreatic) neuroendocrine tumors.  

HutchMed (NSDQ/AIM: HMP) and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZM)  report their MET tyrosine kinase inhibitor was granted conditional China approval for patients with a rare form of NSCLC (see story). Orpathys (savolitinib) was approved as a second-line treatment for NSCLC with MET exon 14 skipping alterations. For those who are unable to receive chemotherapy, it will be a first-line therapy. Approximately 2-3% of NSCLC patients have MET exon 14 skipping alterations, a targetable mutation in the MET gene. It is the first approval for savolitinib, which HutchMed partnered with AstraZeneca ten years ago.  

Shanghai Asieris Pharma dosed the first European patient in a global Phase III trial of its photodynamic drug-device combination product for cervical lesions (see story). Cevira® is being developed as a novel non-surgical treatment for cervical high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions. The drug-containing device contains a photosensitizer that activates the active ingredients via a specific wavelength of light. Asieris, which develops novel treatments for genitourinary tumors, in-licensed global rights to Cevira® from Photocure (OSE: PHO) of Oslo in a $73 million agreement.  

Hangzhou Lynk Pharma has been OK'd to start clinical trials of a novel Class I drug in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (see story). LNK01003 is a kinase inhibitor that offers low systemic exposure and high intestinal exposure, lowering potential toxicity caused by immune system suppression. Lynk did not give any details about the candidate's mechanism. LNK01003 is the third Lynk candidate approved for clinical trials. Founded in 2018, Lynk discovers and develops innovative drugs to treat cancer, as well as immune and inflammatory diseases.  

InxMed (Shanghai) reported that its FAK inhibitor (IN10018) was effective in preventing resistance to KRAS G12C inhibitors in preclinical tests (see story). The study showed that KRAS G12C inhibitors activate focal adhesive kinase (FAK), causing drug resistance. A combination of InxMed's IN10018 and a KRAS G12C inhibitor was effective in several different preclinical models. The study was completed in collaboration with Ruijin Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine and published in an online publication, Advanced Science.  

Nanjing Bioheng Biotech reported its universal CAR-T cell therapy was granted US Orphan Drug Designation to treat T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (see story). Bioheng's pipelines include the allogeneic CAR-T, which is used for hematologic and solid tumors. The company says a universal product solves the drawbacks of high cost and a long wait to develop an individual CAR T therapy. Earlier this year, Bioheng raised $80 million in Series B Financing co-led by GL Ventures, the venture capital unit of Hillhouse Capital, Decheng Capital and Octagon Capital.  

Disclosure: none.


 

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