Connect Biopharma Connects to $115m Series C to Progress Autoimmune Disease Drug Candidates

Connect Biopharma Connects to $115m Series C to Progress Autoimmune Disease Drug Candidates TrialsiteN

Sino-American biotech Connect Biopharma has collected $115 million in Series C financing led by a new investor, RA Capital Management plus new investors, including Lilly Asia Ventures, Boxer Capital and HBM Healthcare Investments.  Existing investors including Qiming Venture Partners also participated in the financing. Derek DiRocco, PhD, Principal at RA Capital Management joined the firm’s Board of Directors. Investors like the future prospects for $1 billion+ sales from a couple of their products targeting autoimmune disease.

TrialSite offers Investor Watch a brief breakdown of this financing.

Who is Connect Biopharma? What do they do?

Founded in 2012, the company focuses on innovation in “best-in-class” therapies that must address patient needs globally. The company focuses on developing new therapies for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

A clinical state U.S. and China-based venture, the company centers its attention on the discovery and development of novel immune modulators for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and inflammation, with an emphasis on the Chinese market and beyond.  

The company has now raised nearly $200 million.

Who is the founder? What’s the background?

The company was co-founded by CEO Zheng Wei, PhD, and William Pan, PhD

Zheng earned his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Davis while Pan earned his PhD in Biology from Sussex University (UK) and postdoctoral training at UC Berkeley. He also holds an MBA from Tsing-Hua University.

What is their core value proposition to investors?

As summarized by co-founder and CEO Zheng Wei, PhD, the company possesses a growing pipeline, technology platform as well as scientific and clinical expertise combined with world-class investors, which positions them for success as they execute against short-term and longer-term objectives in the bid to improve “care and outcomes for patients with inflammatory and autoimmune disease.”

New investor DiRocco conveys the impressive pace at which the company continues to advance its investigational products, such as CBP-2019. Co-founder Dr. Wubin Pan, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Connect, commented that not only was the continued support of investor Qiming Venture Partners key in helping the company attract new biotech savvy investors but also attracting RA Capital, which specializes in “evidence-based investing in public and private healthcare and life science companies developing drugs, medical devices, and diagnostics” showcases the positive momentum of the company.

What does the company plan to use the funds for?

They will use these funds to support ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial for their investigational product CBP-201 in adult patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis (AD) and the ongoing Phase 2 trials of CBP-307 in patients with moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis (UC); as well as expand the CBP-201 clinical development program into additional indications and for help manufacturing clinical material to support Phase 3 clinical trials of CBP-201 and CBP-307.

The company stated in their press release that a portion of the funds would be used to progress additional preclinical programs into clinical development, including CBP-174, a small molecule in development for the treatment of pruritus.

What important milestones has the company achieved?

Importantly, the company experienced investor interest, as it explained in its press release, due to the company achieving several important milestones in the first half of 2020, including achieving positive topline data from its Phase 1b study of CBP-201 in patients with moderate-to-severe AD and initiating a Phase 2 trial in this indication. Moreover, the company reports they enhanced their intellectual property estate for CBP-307, which has broad potential in multiple autoimmune diseases. The company furthermore reports its expects to advance CBP-174, a small-molecule intended for the treatment of pruritus, into Phase 1 clinical development in Q4 2020.

What’s the basis of the company’s IP?

Connect has developed a proprietary Immune Modulation Technology platform that can, according to their claims, “transform the development of novel therapies for a wide array of serious inflammatory and autoimmune diseases that have significant unmet clinical need,” reported new board member Dr. Derek DiRocco. This platform in actuality is a high-throughput screening platform built on the biology of T cell function, and rapidly identifies molecules that a target clinically validated disease pathways more efficiently than the traditional discovery approaches. Investors have come in as they “believe that Connect’s pipeline could yield multiple products with blockbuster potential.” This would mean sales over $1 billion.

What is CBP-201?

This is a potential monoclonal antibody against IL-4Rα, a cell surface protein required for the signaling of both IL-4 and IL-13, which have significant overlapping biological activities and play key roles in inflammatory diseases mediated by type 2 and helper T cells (Th2). The investigational product was discovered using the company’s proprietary Immune Modulation Technology platform and is under clinical development targeting atopic dermatitis (AD) and other Th2 inflammatory diseases that have high unmet medical needs.

What is CBP-307?

This is a novel, second-generation agonist of the sphingosine-1-phosphate 1 receptor (S1P1), a G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) that plays a central role in regulating T cell movement. Also discovered using their proprietary platform, the company claims the investigational product is the most potent S1P1 agonist reported and has excellent physicochemical properties.  After two completed Phase 1 randomized double blind, placebo-controlled studies, the product exhibited an excellence safety profile and potent T cell modulation activity in addition to optimal pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles, evidencing best-in-class potential. Now two Phase 2 studies of CBP-207 are ongoing to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the product in patients with moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis and moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease.