Chinese animal gene modifier set to close $79m funding

Biocytogen delivers gene-modified mice to speed up development in the pharmaceutical industry. Riding the momentum of biotech development in China, the firm expects to IPO within three years.

Chinese gene-modified animal provider Biocytogen is going to close its Series D funding of $79 million on July 23, with four investors and a management team participating.

In an exclusive interview with FinanceAsia, chairman Shen Yuelei spoke about plans for his biotech company and the timeline to expand its business from gene-modified animals, to a comprehensive contract development and manufacturing platform for immuno-oncology.

Investors in Biocytogen understand the long business cycle of biopharmaceutical development, Shen said. “We hope to go public in 2021 or 2022,” he added.

Founded in 2008, Biocytogen outsources its biotech research to pharmaceutical companies. Currently, it has three major businesses, including gene-modified animal production, preclinical study services focusing on immuno-oncology, and therapeutic antibody R&D services.

To date, gene-modified animal production has been its unique selling point among Chinese biotech companies.

“Animal gene modification is a market with accelerated growth, thanks to the overall development of bio-pharmaceutical companies in China,” Shen said. He explained that biopharmaceutical development is a complicated process that, for safety reasons, eventually requires animal testing, and there is an increasing demand in China for genetically engineered mice.

Biocytogen delivers a range of gene-modified mice to its clients, not just the customised ones ordered by clients. “Generally, this takes about two and half years,” Shen said. “We would like to save this time for our clients by providing already-prepared animals for experimentation.” 

Shen said his team intends to look more closely at the pharmaceutical industry to predict the next wave of development.  Biocytogen plans to prepare mice ahead of time, and with different gene modifications. This would allow pharmaceutical companies to choose mice just as they choose goods in a supermarket.

Biocytogen’s clients include all mainstream antibody pharmaceutical companies in China and some of the top 20 immune medicine developers overseas, according to Shen. The company has just completed construction of its laboratory in Boston, US. Within three years, it hopes to increase the Boston-based preclinical research team from its current 30 employees, to 150.

When talking about the on-going fundraising, Shen says that proceeds will be used to develop Biocytogen's platform as a drug contract development and manufacturing organisation, and also to expand its team overseas.

Animal gene modification is costly, Shen admits, because it requires constant factory and manual operations. But he also expects to reduce costs with technical advances, making gene-modified animals more affordable, for more medicine developers.

Shen said the company is trying to become a one-stop platform for biopharmaceutical development, from early-stage research, to animal and preclinical testing.

“We have a considerable volume of sales at this stage,” Shen said. “And we are planning for even more.”

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