Forget the biotech mega-round. Try the $200M-plus China ‘ultra’ on for size

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Shanghai-based I-Mab Biopharma is helping to recalculate what the word “big’ means in biotech venture rounds. And it’s not $100 million.

The biotech has raised $220 million in what it says is the largest C round ever for a Chinese biotech. And the bulk of the money for this ultra-round is coming from some home-grown funds in China that have been spawning a slate of new ventures that are aiming at the virtual overnight creation of fully integrated biopharma companies, from research soup to commercial nuts.

Jingwu Zang

I-Mab’s last round: $150 million a little more than a year ago. Next step: Quite possibly an IPO to continue fast-paced development work.

These new ultra rounds are becoming a thing in China. CStone gathered up $260 million for its outsized B round just a few weeks ago, matching Arch with some major league China players like WuXi.

The latest funding round offers a perfect example of what’s happening today in China biotech. I-Mab’s executive crew is drawn from a group of Chinese players with sterling resumes that span from the best medical schools in the US and China to Big Pharma research experience that lends plenty of credibility.

Joan Shen

CEO Jingwu Zang is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a GSK vet, for example. R&D chief Joan (Huaqiong) Shen worked at Eli Lilly and Pfizer in the US and later went on to head J&J’s development work in China.

The company has been busily in-licensing drugs from prominent transatlantic biopharma companies. One recent example: I-Mab paid Morphosys $20 million upfront and offered $100 million in milestones — outlined in an SEC filing — to gain the China rights to their anti-CD38 therapy for multiple myeloma, MOR-202. And they’re starting with programs in mid- to late-stage development with plans to work with increasingly flexible government regulators anxious to hurry along the birth of an industry.

In this case, I-Mab is dealing with an expanded syndicate of Asian investors.

Private equity group Hony Capital in Beijing led the round, with participations from Hillhouse Capital (run by Yale-educated Zhang Lei), HOPU Investments (which just raised more than $2 billion investment cash), the prolific CDH Investment, Ally Bridge Group (active in the US), Singapore-based EDBI, and existing investors C-Bridge Capital (another private equity group big on biotech) and Tasly Capital (which partnered with C-Bridge in merging Shanghai’s Tianjing Biopharma and Tianjin’s Tianzhenshi Biotechnology last year).


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