JW Therapeutics, a China CAR-T biotech formed by Juno and WuXi, gains $90M series A

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JW is based in Shanghai. (j.sau/CC BY 2.0)

Back in 2016, Juno Therapeutics (now owned by Celgene) and WuXi AppTec joined forces to create a new CAR-T biotech. Today, it got off a meaty $90 million series A with Chinese backing as it eyes clinical trials of its new cancer therapy.

Investors include Temasek, Sequoia Capital China, YuanMing Capital, as well as Oriza Seed Capital, Yipu Capital, AVICT Global Holdings, and existing investors WuXi and Juno.

The Shanghai-based company combines Juno’s CAR-T platform with WuXi AppTec Group’s local China know-how and its R&D and manufacturing platform.

Together, this has helped create its first CD19-directed investigational therapy, JWCAR029, a CAR-T therapy focused on B-cell malignancies, namely relapsed and refractory DCBCL.

After a quiet few years, JWCAR029 has in fact now moved into the clinical phase, with its IND recently being accepted by the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA).

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The biotech is led and co-founded by James Li, the founding general manager for Amgen in China, with Dr. Ge Li as its other co-founder and chair, where he splits his time from his chairman position at WuXi AppTec.

This is part of a broader biotech surge in China, which has also seen an acceleration in activity in CAR-T and CRISPR, as it looks to gain an edge in the next-gen cancer-fighting therapy R&D space.

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“The proceeds from this round of financing will be used to further advance our JWCAR029 clinical program, develop a therapeutic pipeline and build a new commercial manufacturing facility,” said James Li.

“It will greatly accelerate the development and commercialization of JW Therapeutics' portfolio to meet the vast unmet medical needs and provide innovative treatment options to patients in China.”

Hans Bishop, CEO of Juno Therapeutics, added: “We believe CAR-T therapies have the potential to do this, and we are excited that this round of financing will help accelerate the development of these leading-edge therapies to benefit patients in China.”

JW gained exclusive China rights to JWCAR029 from Juno last year for undisclosed terms.