Ex-AstraZeneca executive launches D3 Bio with $200M

D3 Bio has emerged with $200 million from a syndicate of heavy hitters and an ex-AstraZeneca leader in the CEO role. George Chen, M.D., set up D3 Bio after seven years at AstraZeneca and persuaded investors including Sequoia Capital China and Temasek to bankroll his plans. 

The nature of those plans remains unclear. D3 Bio is yet to share details of the indications, targets or technologies it will work on, choosing instead to provide a broad overview of its approach. The plan is to identify areas of unmet need in immunology and oncology  and use existing clinical data to find precision medicine targets and delivery methods with the potential to improve outcomes. 

D3 Bio said the approach will ensure it starts drug discovery with an understanding of the biomarkers of interest and the improvements over existing treatments it will need to achieve. Once D3 Bio takes drugs into the clinic, it will feed data from the studies back into its discovery efforts. Chen provided some details of how the system will work. 

“Our R&D programs in oncology and immunology are designed to address current unmet clinical needs and to provide the structure, or ‘backbone,' upon which future drugs can be developed. D3 Bio intends to create a robust portfolio comprised of internal core assets that can be leveraged for follow-on development as well as in-licensed early-stage clinical assets,” Chen said in a statement.

D3 Bio framed its approach as a departure from a laboratory-driven approach to R&D. One goal of the approach is to use the “entire portfolio to enable discovery and development of additional indications and combination regimens,” Chen said.

What all that means in practice may become clearer as D3 Bio starts striking deals and building out its publicly disclosed pipeline. For now, the most notable things about D3 Bio are the identities of the people involved and the amount of money committed to the venture. 

Chen, co-founder and CEO of D3 Bio, is the only employee named in the statement, although work is underway to build a team. The CEO will make the hires using some of the $200 million provided by Boyu Capital, Matrix Partners China, Sequoia Capital China, Temasek, and WuXi AppTec’s VC wing. 

The investor syndicate handed the money to a notable player in the Chinese biopharma world. Chen spent two years as chief medical officer of pioneering Chinese biotech BeiGene before taking up a position at AstraZeneca. During a seven-year stint at AstraZeneca, Chen headed up China R&D and served as senior vice president for global oncology R&D.

At BeiGene, Chen contributed to the emergence of China as a drug R&D hot spot. Then, after joining AstraZeneca, Chen was involved in advances including the approval of PARP inhibitor Lynparza in China. Exactly what the next step in Chen’s career will look like remains unclear, but the CEO has $200 million to write the chapter.