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

Suzhou, China, where Adagene is based (Christian Gänshirt/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Sequoia China has powered Adagene to a $50 million series C round. The investment positions the Chinese antibody discovery shop to move the most advanced assets in its oncology pipeline into human testing. 

Suzhou, China-based Adagene has kept a relatively low profile over the six years since Peter Luo, Ph.D., founded the business, only popping its head above the parapet every two years to unveil a financing round. The earlier rounds involved big names from the Asian biotech investment scene, including Eight Roads Ventures China, F-Prime Capital and WuXi Corporate Venture Fund.

Now, Sequoia China has become the latest VC shop to be attracted by the science being cooked up by Luo, whose last startup, Abmaxis, sold to Merck. The fund led the round with the support of New World TMT, AVIC Trust, King Star Capital, Gopher Asset Management and other investors.

Adagene will use the series C money to take some of its antibodies into clinical trials around the world. Little is known about the programs. Adagene lists six candidates in its pipeline. All of the drugs are aimed at oncological indications, and the three most advanced assets are in IND-enabling studies. Beyond that, little is known. Adagene is yet to disclose the targets or specific indications.

The antibody specialist has been slightly more forthcoming about the platform that underpins the pipeline. Dubbed dynamic precision library, the platform is intended to expand the list of targets that can be drugged by antibodies and yield candidates that have superior binding specificity.

Patents filed by Adagene give some clues about what the company is up to, but for now claims about the attributes of its antibodies remain largely unverifiable. What is known is the people involved in the startup, both in the management team and the company’s investors, have track records that suggest Adagene is worth keeping tabs on.

More details will emerge as Adagene sets about spending its $50 million to bring programs out of its labs and into the more public glare of clinical testing. In doing so, Adagene will add to a wave of Chinese biotechs that are looking to establish themselves on the global stage.