HONG KONG – Chinese biopharmaceutical company Abbisko Therapeutics Co. Ltd., of Shanghai, defied turbulent stock markets amid the COVID-19 pandemic to snag $70 million in its latest round of financing.

The completion of Abbisko’s series C funding brings the size of its war chest to $140 million. Singaporean investment giant Temasek led the round, joined by existing investors Qiming Venture Partners, Jianxin Capital, GIC, Lilly Asia Ventures, CICC Capital and Loyal Valley Capital.

Abbisko founder and CEO Yaochang Xu said the funding would allow the company “to rapidly advance our clinical programs and continue to move forward the portfolio of novel cancer therapies in the discovery and early development stages.”

Proceeds will be used to fund four projects at preclinical and clinical development stages and business development.

Kathy He, Abbisko’s chief business officer and head of corporate development, explained to BioWorld that Temasek’s confidence in the company’s products and its leadership spurred it to lead the financing – one of the few deals the selective company picked up in 2019.

The fundraising timeline was “definitely not planned” to coincide with the outbreak of the pandemic, according to He. She noted that Abbisko initiated the funding round in late 2019, before the discovery of the first COVID-19 cases.

Yaochang Xu, founder and CEO, Abbisko

Temasek confirmed that it had invested in Abbisko but declined to comment further. Both companies declined to reveal the amounts contributed by each investor.

This is Abbisko’s third venture into the funding market. It raised $28 million in its series A round financing in early February 2017, which was led by Lilly Asia Ventures. Sinopharm Capital, Jianxin Capital and TF Capital also stumped up cash for a company that had been founded less than a year earlier at the time.

Those funds were used to build a new drug R&D center, form an innovative drug R&D team and establish an cancer pipeline.

The company waited two years before embarking on a series B financing in March 2019, raising almost double the previous amount. This time, Qiming Venture Partners led the $42 million fundraiser, and was joined by a well-known international sovereign wealth fund, CICC Capital and Loyal Valley Capital. Lilly Asia Ventures and TF Capital Investments returned for second helpings.

Those proceeds were used to advance the company’s two leading small-molecule cancer drug candidates into clinical trials, and to further expand its discovery pipeline.

Good investors

Founded in 2016, the Abbisko name was inspired by Xu’s love of Abisko National Park in northern Sweden. (An additional “b” was added to avoid copyright infringement.)

2016 was an interesting time to open a company, as the Chinese government was “changing [pharmaceutical] regulatory policies [in China] to be on the same level as developed countries,” said He.

Its 100 employees are currently working on 10 products, with four at the clinical stage and the remaining six at various preclinical stages.

Among the clinical-stage products is ABSK-091, an FGFR Inhibitor that is currently in phase II studies for the treatment of cholangiocarcinoma, bladder and other types of cancers. Abbisko licensed the product from its partner, Astrazeneca plc, in November 2019 and holds the drug’s global rights.

Mavorixafor (ABSK-081), a CXCR4 inhibitor, is also currently undergoing phase II trials. Abbisko entered an exclusive agreement with X4 Pharmaceuticals Inc. to develop and commercialize mavorixafor in July 2019. The immuno-oncology molecule will be combined with other immuno-oncology therapeutics as well as Abbisko portfolio products to potentially treat many types of difficult-to-treat cancers such as pancreatic and triple-negative breast cancer. Abbisko also has inked an agreement with Shanghai Junshi Biosciences Co. Ltd. to investigate a combination of mavorixafor and Junshi’s anti-PD-1 antibody, toripalimab, to treat triple-negative breast cancer.

X4 Pharmaceuticals is conducting its own phase III trial to use the inhibitor to treat congenital immunodeficiency disorder WHIM syndrome.

ABSK-021, a CSF1R inhibitor, is an immuno-oncology candidate discovered by the in-house research team. It is in phase I trials.

Last is ABSK-011, an FGFR4 inhibitor therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma. IND applications have been filed in both Taiwan and mainland China. Phase I trials are currently underway in Taiwan.

Additionally, Abbisko has a small-molecule PD-L1 inhibitor (ABSK-041) at the preclinical stage.

Following its successful series C, could an IPO be in the cards for Abbisko? “We’ll get there,” laughed He, who added that the company aims to develop its products and squeeze in “at least one more round of funding” before going public. “We are lucky to have good investors,” she noted.

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