Abogen: Billion Dollar 2021 for China’s Thermostable mRNA Hope

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The phenomenal success of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines has catapulted messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines into public consciousness, and mRNA technology is today receiving more scientific and financial attention than ever before. Suzhou, China-based biotech Abogen, for example, which has an mRNA-based COVID vaccine in late-stage development, has received over USD one billion in funding in 2020 alone.

 

Billion Dollar Boost

Abogen’s August financing round raised over USD 720 million from investors including Singapore-based Temasek Holdings – which also led a USD 250 million investment round for BioNTech in July 2020 – and GL Ventures. This represented one of the largest private biotech funding rounds in history and the largest ever for a Chines mRNA vaccine developer.

In a statement at the time, Abogen CEO Bo Ying said, “We are grateful to the strong support from all of our investors. With this new round of financing, we look forward to helping the world fight with the rapidly changing global pandemic by accelerating our COVID-19 vaccine product development, to improving its adaptiveness and to recruiting the best industry talents to support our growth at all levels.”

In late November, the firm added another USD 300 million from investors including SoftBank to support the development of the vaccine candidate as well as other drugs in its pipeline.

 

Thermostable mRNA

While the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been wildly successful (The People’s Vaccine Alliance estimates that the three companies will make pre-tax profits of USD 34 billion in 2021 between them), Abogen and its investors feel that their candidate, which is being jointly developed with China’s Institute of Military Medicine under the Academy of Military Sciences and Walvax Biotechnology, still has a market share to gain.

Abogen’s lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNA vaccine ARCoV remains stable at 25 degrees Celsius for at least seven days, meaning that it could be better suited for supplying developing or rural areas without cold chain infrastructure. To date, for example, Africa has managed to vaccinate just six percent of its population.

Additionally, with the BioNTech jab (in partnership with Fosun for development and distribution) still awaiting regulatory approval in China, there is significant potential for a homegrown mRNA vaccine there.


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