Two California biotechs have teamed up with LianBio, a new company launched earlier this week by hedge fund Perceptive Advisors, as part of deals that expand their reach into China as partners of the fledgling Shanghai-based firm.
LianBio is getting the rights to develop and commercialize in Asia certain drugs from the pipelines of Brisbane, CA-based MyoKardia (NASDAQ: MYOK) and Palo Alto, CA-based BridgeBio Pharma (NASDAQ: BBIO). In return, those companies are taking equity stakes in their new partner. The common thread among all of the companies is Perceptive, which has a long track record of investing in life sciences companies.
Perceptive’s relationship with BridgeBio dates to the biotech’s early days; it backed the company even before it emerged from stealth in 2017. Now BridgeBio has more than 20 rare disease drug candidates in development under a “hub and spoke” corporate structure featuring a plethora of subsidiary companies.
The company’s deal with LianBio gives it commercial rights in China and selected Asian markets for two of its investigational oncology drugs: infigratinib, a late-stage investigational treatment under the umbrella of BridgeBio subsidiary QED Therapeutics, and a Phase 1 ready compound, BBP-398, which is housed in its affiliate Navire.
LianBio described infigratinib as the anchor to its oncology unit. Designed to treat tumors driven by the activity of fibroblast growth factor (FGFR) receptors, the experimental drug is in Phase 3 development, and QED this year plans to ask the FDA to review it as a potential treatment for cholangiocarcinoma, a rare but aggressive form of cancer that affects the bile ducts. In China, LianBio is participating in another Phase 3 study, also for cholangiocarcinoma, and plans to evaluate it further for gastric cancer and other FGFR-driven tumors.
BBP-398, a small molecule intended to inhibit a protein called SHP2, is designed to target tumors driven by RAS proteins and mutated receptor tyrosine kinases. The new company plans to play a role in BBP-398’s clinical development in combination with other treatments for solid tumors in China and other markets in Asia.
Under the deal terms LianBio also gets what the companies call “preferential access” to BridgeBio’s broader portfolio of product candidates. In exchange, BridgeBio is slated to receive $26.5 million in up front and near-term milestone payments, plus up to $505 million more in additional progress payments and royalties on any sales of either drug in the territories included in the agreement. BridgeBio CEO and founder, Neil Kumar, joins the LianBio board of directors as part of the deal.
Perceptive was also an early investor in MyoKardia. LianBio’s strategic collaboration with that company gives it development and commercialization rights in China and other Asian markets for mavacamten, a treatment in late-stage testing for patients who have hardening and thickening of the heart muscle called obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). LianBio, which is responsible for development and commercialization costs in its territories, described mavacamten as the anchor to a subsidiary called Lain Cardiovascular, which will focus on developing treatments for diseases that affect the heart and kidneys.
Results from a Phase 3 trial of mavacamten reported in May revealed the investigational drug more rapidly improved symptoms of HCM than did a placebo. MyoKardia plans to ask the FDA to review it in the first quarter of 2021.
In exchange for handing over Asia rights to its lead drug candidate, MyoKardia will receive $40 million up front when the deal closes, plus other payments in the subsequent six months, the amount of which wasn’t disclosed. The biotech is also eligible for up to $147.5 million more tied to regulatory and sales milestones, plus royalties on sales in the territories where LianBio has rights. MyoKardia CEO Tassos Gianakakos is taking a LianBio board seat as part of the deal.
In addition to its Shanghai office, LianBio also has a team in Princeton, NJ. The firm is headed by CEO Bing Li, most recently the chief executive of China Biologic Products (NASDAQ: CBPO), and Debra Yu, president and chief business officer, who was previously a managing director at China Renaissance Securities, where she headed cross-border healthcare investment banking.