Antengene raises $120m amid China anti-cancer push

It is the fourth nine-figure private fundraising by a Chinese pharmaceutical company involved in cancer research in nine months.

Antengene has become the fourth Chinese biopharmaceutical company in less than a year to raise well over $100 million from private investors, illustrating the country's growing efforts to develop effective anti-cancer drugs.

Shanghai-based Antengene said it completed a $120 million Series B fundraising on Wednesday to finance more research and invest in marketing for its ATG-008 anti-cancer drug, which is already undergoing Phase II clinical trials and so is being tried out on patients. 

Last year, three other China pharmaceutical companies attracted nine-figure sums including CStone Pharmaceutical ($260 million), I-MAB Biopharma ($220 million), and Ascentage Pharma ($145 million in July). All of them are also doing anti-cancer drug research.

It also compares favourably with healthcare fundraisings generally, which most of the fundraising in 2018 are around $50  millionaccording to 199IT.coma third party research website.

Boyu Capital and FountainVest Partners jointly led Antengene's latest round of investment. US biopharma Celgene Corporation and Wuxi AppTec also partook, along with Taikang Life’s investment arm. Existing investors Qiming Venture Partners and TF Capital participated too.

Qiming Venture Partners led Antengene's Series A fundraising in 2017 with a $21 million investment. 

The Chinese startup has also been in partnership with Celgene since it was founded in 2016. Antengene cooperates with Celgene and Karyopharm on anti-cancer drug development in Asian countries. Its two major anti-cancer drugs have reached Phase II and III clinical trials, respectively. Antengene also has a 15,800 sqm production factory in China Zhejiang province.

Antengene got the regulatory go-ahead for clinical trials of its ATG-008 anti-cancer drug in June 2018, the same month Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged the government to speed up new drug approvals to compensate for the anti-cancer drug shortage.

And in August of last year, China added 12 anti-cancer drugs to the National Essential Drug List, six of which involve targeted cancer therapy.

Beijing's anti-cancer push is an attempt to address the extent to which the development of new drugs has been lagging in China relative to other major markets. In the 10 years to 2018, the China Food and Drug Administration approved 38 anti-cancer drugs but only four of them were manufactured locally. By comparison, the US Food and Drug Administration in 2018 alone approved more than 50 drugs for cancer treatment. 

As a result, the Chinese are having a difficult time getting effective and advanced anti-cancer drugs.

Research released by the China National Cancer Centre in April 2018 showed a growing incidence of cancer in China. The research showed that there were 3.8 million new cancer cases in 2014. 

Moreover, China’s cumulative risk of cancer incidence is above the world’s average level, according to research published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in September.

In response, Beijing has both relaxed the examination of imported anti-cancer drugs and made it easier for domestic pharmaceutical companies to get fundraising to help with their drug research and development. 

In the case of Antengene and others so far, much of that fundraising is happening in private markets, but it could yet spread to public markets, now that the Shanghai Stock Exchange is establishing the Science and Technology Innovation Board and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange has relaxed initial public offering requirements for biotech firms

That, in turn, could draw in more private investors by making it easier to exit when the time comes.

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