Earlier this year, PharmaBoardroom highlighted five of the most innovative and important biotech companies making waves in the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical market, China. Here, we pick out five more firms looking to crack both the Chinese and international markets.
Founded in 2015, EpimAb Biotherapeutics is a privately owned and operated biopharmaceutical R&D company based in Shanghai. Through its proprietary bispecific antibody platform, Fabs-In-Tandem Immunoglobulin (FIT-Ig®), they have progressed their EMB01 program into Phase I trials. EMB01 is an EGFR-cMet bispecific antibody designed to help patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that have developed resistance to conventional small molecule targeted therapies, including third-generation therapies like AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso®.
EpimAB’s second and third programs are also focused on immuno-oncology. Furthermore, the FIT-Ig® technology platform is not only limited to oncology but can also be used in other areas including immunology, neuroscience, and metabolic diseases.
EpimAB sees itself as different from the plethora of other biotechs active in China. As CEO Chengbin Wu notes, “many companies claim to have a technology platform to generate such antibodies. But we need to look at the quality of these platforms, how much resources and money the companies have invested in its platforms, and of course, whether these platforms have helped the companies generate large licensing deals”. He adds, “to avoid being copied, you need to work in difficult areas. You need to be facing technical hurdles and barriers to entry!”
John Yu is cofounder and CEO of CGeneTech, a biopharmaceutical company devoted to the development, production, and marketing of small molecule innovative drugs. CGeneTech is located in Suzhou’s BioBAY, which is a collaboration between China and Singapore to build a globally competitive high-tech industrial park. CGeneTech’s flagship candidate is a Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor diabetes drug currently in Phase I clinical trials.
CGeneTech is already conducting head to head trials with MSD’s sitagliptin, the current market leader. However, as Yu points out, “for our compound, we can use a half-dose to achieve the same or even better efficacy compared to sitagliptin.”
CGeneTech has a diversified focus, traversing various therapeutic areas and technology platforms. Its pipeline also includes a generic version of teriflunomide , used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) and a novel oral disintegrating technology (ODT) platform, which is a lyophilization technology for immediate release (Lyir) tablets.
Gmax Biopharm was established in 2010 and focuses on G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) therapeutic antibodies. Most of its GPCR targets are geared towards metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. Concerning metabolic diseases, Gmax specifically targets diabetes, obesity, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and liver fibrosis. For cardiovascular disease, they are primarily focused on pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).
Gmax currently has three flagship projects in clinical stages: firstly, a Type 2 diabetes drug (GMA-102), secondly, an obesity drug (GMA 105) and finally, one for PAH (GMA 301). Their PAH drug has just been given Orphan Drug Designation by the US FDA, a significant breakthrough for the company. Gmax Biopharm is currently looking to establish themselves in Europe, where they have potential partners lined up, to begin IND filing and orphan drug application for the PAH drug within the EU.
Adlai Nortye was established in 2016 by Carsten Lu, a serial entrepreneur who has also set up two other companies in the biotech and healthcare industries. Adlai Nortye is an immuno-oncology biotech company with the express purpose of “transforming cancer into chronic diseases that can be treated and cured”.
The company has had a tremendously successful past few years. In 2017, it licensed Pelareorep which is an intravenously-delivered immuno-oncolytic virus, and also entered into a global license agreement with Eisai for an EP4 antagonist. In 2019, Adlai announced a collaboration with MSD to assess the combination of its EP4 Antagonist with MSD’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA®, in patients with solid tumors.
I-Mab is a biopharmaceutical company with a focus on first-in-class and best-in-class drugs in the areas of immuno-oncology and autoimmune diseases. The company was formed in 2017 through a merger between two Chinese biotechs, Third Venture Biotech and Tasgen.
“The mission is to bring transformational medicines to patients globally through innovation”.
I-Mab prides itself on its speed and efficiency while ensuring quality is paramount, according to company president, Zheru Zhang. To achieve faster growth, I-Mab “has established an open innovation ecosystem” where they partner with top organizations through each stage in the R&D process. I-Mab’s global portfolio currently comprises of biologics that have “first-in-class” or “best-in-class potential,” he notes.
I-Mab currently has three monoclonal antibodies (TJC4 and TJC5 for multiple cancer indications, and TJM2 for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases), and two mAbs – TJ210 for oncology and autoimmune disease, and TJX7 for autoimmune diseases – are at the CMC stage, with INDs and the initiation of Phase 1 trials in the U.S. expected in 2020. I-Mab is very keen on international collaborations and in 2018 signed a USD 100 million agreement with ABL Bio (a Korean company) for some of its bi-specific antibodies.
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