Connect Biopharma adds $115M to the pot as it eyes rivalry with Dupixent

While Sanofi and Regeneron’s blockbuster Dupixent racks up the sales, more and more biotechs want a piece of the action.

One of them, China-based Connect Biopharma, just got off a $115 million series C round to try to do just that.

Backed by big names including new investor RA Capital Management as well as Lilly Asia Ventures and Qiming Venture Partners, alongside others, Connect will use the cash to fund mid- to late-stage tests for its leading drugs: IL-4Rα signaling drug CBP-201 and molecule modulator of S1P1 CBP-307.

The former, in phase 2, is being tested in moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, putting it in the same market bracket as blockbuster Dupixent, while CBP-307 is being tested in patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis, a disease area already well catered for in the market.

It’s also in midstage studies, though the plan is to use the series C to help push on into the final stages of human trials.

The biotech also has plans to boost the potential indications for CBP-201, while in addition using some of its new swag to take its early work into the clinic, including CBP-174, a small molecule in development for pruritus (itching).

“We believe that our wholly-owned and growing pipeline, technology, scientific and clinical expertise, and world-class investors position us for success in continued execution of our near-term objectives and attaining our long-term vision of improving care and outcomes for patients with inflammatory and autoimmune disease,” said Zheng Wei, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO at Connect.

The plan is to have these drugs become rivals to the likes of Dupixent and Humira, catering to the major autoimmune and inflammatory diseases that are worth tens of billions of dollars to the bigger players.

Dupixent sales reached €2.07 billion last year, and the med has been growing sales at about €100 million per quarter. The expectation is that it can hit €10 billion or more per year.

Connect wants to disrupt that and have a piece of the pie, and it follows the likes of Singaporean biotech Aslan, which is currently testing anti-IL-13Rα1 antibody ASLAN004 in moderate to severe atopic dermatitis and also looking to take market share away from Dupixent.

Ulcerative colitis is also a big but saturated market, with Johnson & Johnson’s FDA green light for the condition with its Stelara last year, as well as Pfizer’s Xeljanz and, most recently, Bristol Myers Squibb’s Zeposia.

Humira has long been the big seller for ulcerative colitis and a host of other indications, though biosimilars will start to cut that down in the coming years.