BEIJING – Multinational antibody specialist Hifibio Therapeutics Inc. said it closed a $67 million series C financing round to advance its drug candidates for cancer and autoimmune disorders.

The biotech firm, which has facilities in Cambridge, Mass., Paris and Shanghai, China, previously closed a series B of $37 million a little more than a year ago. This time, the financing round was led by IDG Capital and joined by Sequoia Capital China, Delian Capital, Hanne Capital, VI Ventures, Legend Star Capital, Lyfe Capital and Kite Pharma Inc.

"We expect to have several programs complete the IND filing process in the next couple of years. Additionally, we will also use the proceeds to enhance our Drug Intelligent Science platform for clinical design and biomarker discovery," Liang Schweizer, president and CEO of Hifibio Therapeutics, told BioWorld Asia.

So far, the firm has 10 drug candidates in its pipeline, with two reaching the IND-enabling stage. The company discovers and develops therapeutic antibodies to target regulatory T cells and myeloid-derived suppressor cells.

The biotech firm's Drug Intelligent Science platform is designed to target more precise patient subsets and increase the chance of success in a more timely and cost-efficient manner. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to design drugs and select patients using single-cell data. The platform combines single phenotype, functionality and genotype to examine disease biology.

Tiger Hu, a senior associate of investor IDG Capital who is joining Hifibio's board, said he is confident of the biotech firm's Drug Intelligent Science capabilities and Celli Go platform to transform the way immuno-oncology therapies are developed.

Hifibio has long been boasting of its Celli Go platform, a single-cell analytics platform for extensive immune profiling. Its single-B-cell screening and analysis platform features deep mining ability to allow for the identification of diverse cells to produce antibodies of interest in as little as one day. It has the power to screen about 1,000-fold more individual B cells than hybridoma screening techniques.

Since it closed a series B round in May 2018, Hifibio has been active in expanding collaborations. It has announced a string of business development activities to acquire new assets and deepen global joint efforts in biotech research.

In particular, its single-cell analytics platform has earned it a number of partners from Asia to the U.S.

In July last year, Hifibio entered a multitarget agreement with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd to discover antibody therapies for treating various gastrointestinal diseases, cancers and other disorders. Both companies will use Hifibio's single-cell screening capabilities to discover antibodies against Takeda's targets. Takeda then conducts the preclinical and clinical trials.

Three months after signing the Takeda deal, Hifibio inked a research collaboration and license agreement with new investor California-based Kite Pharma, a subsidiary of biotech giant Gilead Sciences Inc. That partnership aims to develop technology that facilitates the discovery of neoantigen-reactive T-cell receptors (TCR) for treating different cancers, including solid tumors.

Kite was granted the right to adapt Hifibio's single-cell technology platform to create a high-throughput approach to enable in-depth screening of TCR repertoires from patient samples to identify shared antigen and neoantigen TCRs for use in adoptive cellular therapies.

Hifibio is also actively working to strengthen its internal pipeline and platform technology.

Last October, it acquired French immuno-oncology company H-Immune Therapeutics SAS for its assets and technology. The platform developed by H-Immune is believed to complement Hifibio's Celli Go platform. Hifibio also takes home H-Immune's early stage pipeline developed through translational collaborations with cancer centers in Europe.

In December, Hifibio established a joint venture with Vikas Sukhatme, a professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, to validate surface molecules on myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) that were discovered by Sukhatme. Sukhatme has strong expertise in the connection between MDSCs and relevant cancer patients. Hifibio said it hopes to identify a repertoire of first-in-class antibody drugs for various forms of cancer through that joint effort.

Established in 2013, the growing biotech has revealed ambitious plans and completed a few financing rounds. Asked if the company will consider going public or continue to seek private capital to further support its growth, Schweizer said that "we will continue to evaluate all of our options and make decisions based on what is in the best interest of all of our shareholders."

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