Hummingbird Bioscience buzzes with $125M series C led by Novo Holdings

The fresh funds will enable Singapore-based Hummingbird to advance its core pipeline of three precision therapies targeting cancers. (Pixabay)

Hummingbird Bioscience can chirp a little louder this morning with an oversubscribed $125 million series C led by Novo Holdings, the investment arm of Novo Nordisk.

The Hummingbird financing signals one of the first investments in a privately held Asian biotech by the Danish pharma company. Novo recently created Novo Holdings Equity Asia Pte. Ltd. in Singapore to focus on Asian life sciences investment.

Novo was joined by Amgen Ventures, another investment fund run by a big pharma that has a strategic collaboration with Hummingbird for cancer research. Other new investors include Frazier Healthcare Partners and Octagon Capital, while existing investors SK Inc, Heritas Capital and others also contributed.

Novo has followed the Singapore and U.S.-headquartered biotech's progress for several years, Partner Kenneth Harrison said in a statement.

“We believe that Hummingbird's novel data-driven, systems biology approach brings new precision to the field of antibody drug discovery and development and are proud to support the team in realizing their vision," said Harrison, who will join Hummingbird's board.

Hummingbird joins a large portfolio of Novo investments. The firm recorded 39 public investments and 33 venture financings in 2020 and participated in the initial public offerings of Aligos Therapeutics, Praxis Precision Medicines and others. Hummingbird previously raised more than $65 million in previous funding rounds. 

The new financing will “propel and catalyze” Hummingbird's delivery of precision therapies for cancers and autoimmune diseases “faster and better," CEO Piers Ingram said in a statement. 

RELATED: Sanofi signs cancer pact with Asian biotech Hummingbird

“Over the past year we have expanded our team and solidified partnerships to enhance our capabilities and bring precision medicine to the core of everything we do,” Ingram said. 

One of the beneficiaries of the financing is Hummingbird's lead asset, HMBD-001, a HER3 antibody for neuregulin 1 (NRG1)-fusion and HER3-driven tumors. HMBD-001 aims to interfere with the HER3 antibody and inhibit tumor growth. 

Hummingbird found that HMBD-001 did just that in preclinical models, according to data issued in January 2020. The company said the asset would move into phase 1 testing in the second half of 2020 in a partnership with Cancer Research UK. The FDA's Clinical Trials database did not have any trials listed for HMBD-001 and the company has not provided an update on whether the trial has landed in the clinic. 

Further funding will go to HMBD-002, an anti-VISTA monoclonal antibody that inhibits tumor growth, according to preclinical models. Hummingbird will also expand its Rational Antibody Discovery platform and advance a pipeline of other precision therapeutics, such as HMBD-009. 

Besides the collaboration with Amgen, Hummingbird signed a cancer antibody pact with French drugmaker Sanofi in 2016.