Founded in 2009 by CEO Dr XU Ting, Alphamab started its journey as a protein engineering company with the ultimate dream of becoming, as many Chinese biotechs aspire, a global biotech company producing world-class innovations. To learn more about some of China’s most innovative and inspirational biotech stories, download our InFocus: 5 Biotechs to Watch in China report here.
Just over a decade later, Dr XU has taken Alphamab Oncology – the innovative portfolio of the original company – to a successful IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) and their flagship product, KN035, is poised to launch on the market in the near future.
Dr XU will be the first to admit that the journey has been a difficult but fulfilling one. Returning to China in 2008 after post-doctorates at Harvard University and Tufts University, and subsequently stints with US biotechs such as Archemix, Serono and Biogen, the first few years were a struggle for the nascent company. In order to survive, Dr XU had to out-license the first drug candidate he developed in order to finance company operations. However, in adversity the company found opportunity. The out-licensing of biosimilar drug candidates to other companies became a sustainable source of revenue for Alphamab, allowing it to develop a robust pipeline of innovative drugs while building proprietary technology platforms. It also meant that Alphamab did not have to face the vagaries of the capital markets until 2018, when they raised their Series A round. This was quickly followed by a Series B round in May 2019, which then paved the way neatly for their IPO in December 2019.
Today, Alphamab Oncology is a clinical-stage biopharma company with a robust pipeline in oncology and immunology. Their in-house proprietary platforms, including bispecifics, protein engineering and mixed-antibody platforms, allow them to develop multimodality-targeting therapies to address the complexity of cancer.
Their flagship product is KN035, a subcutaneous injectable PD-L1 antibody, which was codeveloped with another Chinese company, 3D Medicines. In China, a pivotal Phase II trial for high microsatellite instability (MSI-H)/mismatch repair deficiency (dMMR) advanced solid tumors has been concluded and a Phase III pivotal trial in biliary tract cancer is in progress.
TRACON already has a sales team set up for this indication in the US. This is a good way to preserve our resources for our core priorities like more major indications
In the US, they have collaborated with 3D Medicines and TRACON Pharmaceuticals to develop it for the orphan indication of soft tissue sarcoma. It has since received Orphan Drug Designation from the US FDA. Dr XU explained, “TRACON already has a sales team set up for this indication in the US. This is a good way to preserve our resources for our core priorities like more major indications.” He sees great potential for their product in the US market, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic may even work to their compound’s favour. Dr XU highlights, “due to the COVID-19 crisis, at least half of the US are discouraging patients from going to hospitals. As a result, more than half of the patients on, for instance, intravenous Herceptin, has now switched to subcutaneous infusions. I think once this switch has been made, patients will be reluctant to go back on IV drips because of the inconvenience. Our KN035 is still the only subcutaneous PD-1/PD-L1 in late-stage clinical development so we might have an interesting opportunity there in the US market.”