Celgene invests in Chinese biotech Antengene again

China flag against blue sky
Celgene licensed Asian rights to a TORC1/2 inhibitor to Antengene last year. (SW1994/Pixabay)

China’s Antengene has raised another $120 million in a second-round financing, with partner Celgene contributing to the tally.

The series B comes after an initial $21 million opener in mid-2017 and a licensing deal with Celgene that gave Antengene East and Southeast Asian rights to ATG-008, a TORC1/2 inhibitor in late-stage testing for the treatment of hepatitis B virus-positive hepatocellular carcinoma.

The latest investment was led by Chinese VCs Boyu Capital and FountainVest, with Celgene, WuXi Corporate Venture Fund, Taikang, Qiming Venture Partners and TF Capital also joining the round.

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Antengene said in an update that it will use the proceeds for the development of ATG-008—which is known by Celgene as CC-223 but doesn’t appear in the U.S. biotech’s current pipeline listing—as well as ATG-010 (selinexor), originally developed by Karyopharm and licensed in Asian markets by Antengene last May, along with “other clinical-stage assets.”

The latter include two other selective inhibitor of nuclear export (SINE) drugs—AGT-016 (eltanexor) and ATG-527 (verdinexor)—and a PAK4/NAMPT dual inhibitor (AGT-019), all of which are also licensed from Karyopharm.

ATG-010, billed as a first-in-class SINE, is in late-stage clinical trials for a range of blood cancers and solid tumors, including multiple myeloma, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and liposarcoma.

Jay Mei, founder and CEO of Antengene—who has also seen stints at Celgene, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson—said: “This round of financing is critical for Antengene's growth. We will continue to maintain and advance rigorous, science-driven, and patient-centered R&D, while actively preparing for the commercialization of our lead products in China and the Asia-Pacific region.”

The company is in the process of building a manufacturing and research facility in Shaoxing to provide clinical and commercial supply of its pipeline drugs.

Celgene has said previously it views its arrangement with Antengene as the foundation for a possible strategic partnership between the two companies, and its participation in the latest funding round suggests that is still in the cards. Celgene has suggested Antengene could operate as a conduit to bring some of its other novel drugs to Asian markets.

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