HONG KONG – After collecting $57 million in a series B round, Hangzhou Just Biotherapeutics Ltd. venture is now looking to build on the technology platform provided by its U.S.-based parent to focus on completing a new manufacturing plant in China designed to lower the cost of biosimilars and new biologics.
The new capital should help the relatively young company finish building and setting up its cGMP-rated research and manufacturing facility by the end of this year and launch operations in early 2018 as its first commercial facility.
Just Biotherapeutics was founded February 2016 in Hangzhou, China, as a joint venture with Seattle-based Just Biotherapeutics Inc.
The joint venture set-up gives the company access to the J.Design integrated technology platform that facilitates the development of biologics. Like its parent, the goal of the company is to make biologics cheaper and more accessible to patients globally.
"We will do clinical trials in both the U.S. and China as we are targeting both the domestic market as well as the overseas market," Just Biotherapeutics' Public Relations and Communications Director Qin Jingyuan told BioWorld Asia.
"We see great potential in the biopharmaceutical market in China; however, currently our Chinese biopharmaceuticals are not that competitive, globally speaking," Qin said. "We would like to see our products exported to European countries and the U.S. as we are adopting international standards and utilizing the most advanced technologies."
Qin pointed to the company's use of J.Pods, which he described as part the "third generation of bioprocessing industry facilities." J.Pods are processing units that can run intensive bioprocesses in manner that is both flexible and efficient, helping bring manufacturing costs down.
"Healthcare innovation in China has already entered into a new era," said Yining Zhao, co-founder and CEO of Hangzhou Just Biotherapeutics. He also highlighted the company's commitment to innovate in both products and business model.
The company said it expects its leading development programs will enter into clinical stages in early 2018.
The Seattle-based parent is also a young company that was set up in 2014. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is an investor in the parent company along with multinational Merck and Arch Venture Partners. The company is developing products for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), psoriasis, diabetes and infectious diseases.
The company's pipeline includes biosimilars JST001 for wet AMD and JST003 for psoriasis; both are expected to go into preclinical trials in 2018. Reference products for both were not disclosed.
JST008, a "repositioned biologic" for type 1 diabetes, is scheduled to go into phase I trials later this year.
The series B funding round was led by Singapore-based Temasek. Lilly Asia Ventures and Arch Venture Partners, both existing investors, also participated along with new investors that include Taikang, the Hangzhou Economic & Technological Development Area, Bank of China and the Bank of Hangzhou. Temasek has a US$197 billion portfolio of assets in Asia, particularly Singapore. Taikang is an insurance and financial services company.