China's Abogen raises $700M series C for mRNA trials, catapulting itself into the big leagues

Restrictions on Chinese outbound investment
The size of the round will enable Abogen to complete clinical development of ARCoV while adding to its production capabilities. (2jenn)

Abogen Biosciences has raised one of the largest private biotech funding rounds ever. The low-profile biotech reeled in more than $700 million to advance its late-phase COVID-19 jab, obliterating the fundraising record for a Chinese mRNA vaccine developer. 

The COVID-19 crisis put Abogen on the map, with its $92 million series B round and initiation of the first phase 3 clinical trial of a Chinese mRNA vaccine making headlines earlier this year, but the size of its latest financing still came as a shock. 

Stemirna Therapeutics’ $188 million financing raised the bar for Chinese mRNA rounds in June. Abogen has now launched the bar into rarefied air occupied by few other biotechs, from anywhere, working on any modality.

Temasek, Invesco Developing Markets Fund, Loyal Valley Capital, GL Ventures, Yunfeng Capital, Lilly Asia Ventures and Boyu Capital came together to lead the round, with about 20 new and existing investors providing assists. 

RELATED: China's Stemirna raises $188M to fund mRNA COVID-19 vaccine

Abogen will use the money to fund development of a COVID-19 vaccine that entered phase 3 in April. While Abogen has ceded a huge head start to mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, its candidate may have an advantage over those products. Last year, Bo Ying, founder of Abogen, co-authored a paper about a thermostable mRNA vaccine against COVID-19.

The paper describes how Abogen’s lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNA vaccine ARCoV remained stable at 25 degrees Celsius for at least seven days. Exposing the vaccine to temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius for seven days resulted in a 13% drop in relative photon flux. A vaccine that is stable at ambient temperatures for a week or more could help get supplies to rural areas that lack cold chain infrastructure. 

Abogen still needs to show its vaccine works, though. The success of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech show mRNA vaccines can be highly effective, although the struggles of CureVac provide a cautionary tale. 

The size of the round will enable Abogen to complete clinical development of ARCoV while adding to its production capabilities and moving more vaccines and oncology mRNA candidates into the clinic.