China's Adagene bags $69M to advance lead immunotherapies

money
New funding will push what Adagene CEO Peter Luo, Ph.D., calls the first wave of pipeline programs through the clinic: an anti-CTLA-4 antibody and a CD137-targeting antibody. (Pixabay)

China-based Adagene has worked relatively quietly in the eight years since Peter Luo, Ph.D., founded the company, emerging every so often to unveil a new financing. Now, General Atlantic is pouring $50 million into the antibody specialist's $69 million series D.

General Atlantic joins Adagene's other backers: Eight Roads Ventures China, F-Prime Capital, WuXi Corporate Venture Fund and Sequoia China. The round brings the company's war chest to more than $150 million and will push its lead immunotherapies through the clinic as well as support further development of its drug discovery technology, Adagene said in a statement.

Suzhou, China-based Adagene aims to create new cancer immunotherapies for “areas where others have failed,” Luo, the company’s CEO, said in the statement. 

Sponsored by Biotech Primer

September 2-3, 2020 Live, Online Course: Biopharma Revenue Forecasting that Drives Decision Making and Investments

Become fluent in the core elements of revenue forecasting including epidemiology, competitive assessments, market share assignment and pricing. Let Biotech Primer's dynamic industry experts teach you how to assess the value of new therapies.

How? Its secret sauce, Luo told FierceBiotech, is its discovery platform, dubbed the Dynamic Precision Library. The technology uses artificial intelligence and computational biology to discover new antibodies and tailor their safety and efficacy profiles, Luo said. It allows Adagene to hit tricky targets that have eluded other drug developers. 

RELATED: China’s Adagene raises $50M to take anticancer antibodies into the clinic 

The funding will push what Luo calls the first wave of pipeline programs through the clinic: ADG116, an anti-CTLA-4 antibody the FDA has cleared for human trials, and ADG106, a CD137-targeting antibody, which is in phase 1 studies in the U.S. and China in solid tumors and blood cancers that are advanced or have spread. Adagene is testing both as single agents but plans to combine them with other cancer-fighting treatments such as checkpoint inhibitors and chemotherapy, Luo said. 

The cross-reactive nature of its drug candidates makes for “robust translational studies” in animals that better reflect how they will work in humans, Luo said. Adagene believes this will help it take a rational approach to combining cancer treatments before “launching tons of clinical trials.” 

Though it is still early days for Adagene’s pipeline, the company is already working to improve its discovery platform to “extend [its] frontiers” and make a second generation of antibodies even better than the first. What kind of benchmark will the first crop of treatments set? Time will tell.

Suggested Articles

The deal comes almost two years after Roche dropped the tumor microenvironment modulator after putting it through a clutch of early-phase studies.

The buzzy life sciences company Verily is looking to speed up COVID testing with a new lab based at its native South San Francisco.

Although Genfit canned its NASH program last month, it has been plugging away at a blood-based diagnostic for the liver disease.