HONG KONG – China's Zhejiang Conba Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. is working on a ¥960 million (US$138.3 million) plan to focus on foreign investment and take biosimilar maker Genor Biopharma Co. Ltd. public in Hong Kong.

In late October, Conba set up a wholly owned subsidiary in Shanghai to achieve both ends. The new company's unofficial name translates to Shanghai Kangjia Medical Technology Co. Ltd. It will specialize in medical technology, biotechnology and green technology, among other areas. Kangjia is set to establish its own subsidiary in Hong Kong that could facilitate efforts to take Genor Biopharma public.

Conba owns a 27.54 percent stake in the company.

"Hong Kong is providing more financial support to innovative technology recently, while Shanghai is an international city that is able to accept new technology more easily," Conba's spokesperson Jiang Chao told BioWorld Asia. "Genor is also headquartered in Shanghai."

But, Jiang made it clear that no decision has been made on what market Genor will target for its listing nor has any timeline been decided for investments.

In April this year, Conba acquired 21.05 percent of shares of Genor with ¥673 million from Sunshine Life Insurance Corp. Ltd. and its subsidiary. Walvax Biotechnology Co. Ltd. also transferred 8.65 percent of its stake in Genor, worth ¥52 million, to Conba in June.

In a June stock market statement Conba cited Genor's "unique product scientific design" and "system to analyze new drug R&D," noting that the company's team has, on average, more than a decade of industry experience. Genor's technology platform, which is designed to analyze the quality of glycosylation, is expected to reduce production cost significantly, according to Conba.

Genor currently owns 16 patents in China and other countries, including "mutant antibody of full human HER2 antibody, coding gene and use thereof," in Russia and Japan as well as "anti-angiogenesis fusion proteins" in South Africa and the U.S.

The biopharma company is still in the red financially, with a loss of ¥54.27 million in 2017. But companies without profits are no longer restrained from getting listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) since the government relaxed the requirements in an effort to attract more innovative biotech companies, such as Hangzhou-based Ascletis Pharma Inc., to the market. (See BioWorld, Feb. 27, 2018.)

Eligible companies can also seek a secondary listing in Hong Kong. Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Beigene Ltd., for instance, filed for a monster Hong Kong IPO that raised more than $900 million. (See BioWorld, Aug. 1, 2018.)

Multiple trials ongoing

Genor, which specializes in biologics production, including biologics and biosimilars, is targeting a range of indications, including cancer, autoimmune diseases and metabolic disorders. The company has been conducting R&D for 10 monoclonal antibodies, nine of which have been cleared for clinical trials.

Genor's pipeline includes GB-221, a biobetter of trastuzumab (Herceptin, Roche Holding AG) targeting HER2-positive breast cancer. That product is in a phase III trial after obtaining clinical approval from China in July 2013. Genor also has a biosimilar for infliximab (Remicade, Johnson & Johnson), GB-242, targeting multiple indications, including Crohn's disease for adults and children, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ulcerative colitis, ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA). It is also in phase III testing following approval from Chinese regulators in January 2015.

Genor's adalimumab (Humira, Abbvie Inc.) biosimilar, GB-232, aims to treat RA, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, PsA, AS, Crohn's disease and plaque PsA. It is undergoing a phase I trial in South Korea after being given the regulatory green light in August 2014. A trial in China for GB-232 was halted without the company specifying the reasons.

GB-222 is a biosimilar bevacizumab (Avastin, Roche Holding AG) that targets colorectal cancer, breast cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer, kidney cancer, ovarian cancer and glioblastoma. GB-222 is in a phase III trial, after getting a go-ahead from China in September 2016. And GB-241, a rituximab (Mabthera, Roche Holding AG) biosimilar targeting CD20-positive non-Hodgkin lymphoma, was granted clinical trial approval in China in August 2016 and is currently in a phase I study.

Biosimilars aside, Genor is also developing five biologics. GB-224, an IL-6-blocking monoclonal antibody targeting tumors and autoimmune diseases, is in a phase I trial. A PD-1-blocking humanized monoclonal antibody, GB-226, for treating late-stage or relapsed solid tumors and/or lymphomas is in a phase II trial, while GB-223, a humanized monoclonal antibody was approved for clinical testing in China in December 2017 and January 2018 for lowering the risks of osteoporosis and osseous metastasis, respectively. Another two antibodies targeting HER2-positive breast cancer, GB-235 and GB-251, were granted clinical approval in China in February and May this year, respectively.