After working in stealth since October, Perceptive Advisors is unveiling its latest biotech: LianBio, which serves the dual mission of bringing much-needed new drugs to China and helping U.S. biotech companies expand their operations into Asia.
LianBio launches with a trio of assets licensed from MyoKardia and BridgeBio Pharma companies Navire Pharma and QED Therapeutics. LianBio is handing over more than $60 million upfront in exchange for development and commercialization rights to the programs in China and "selected Asian markets." BridgeBio and MyoKardia will pick up equity in the LianBio, too.
And that’s not all—LianBio has a “strategic relationship” with BridgeBio that gives it first dibs on the 20 programs already in the latter’s pipeline, as well as any assets it may bring under its umbrella in the next four years, said Konstantin Poukalov, a managing director at Perceptive Advisors and executive chairman of LianBio. The company will be on the hook for up to $505 million in milestone payments to BridgeBio and $147.5 million to MyoKardia.
LianBio’s pipeline includes mavacamten—a treatment for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), an inherited disorder that causes the muscle walls of the heart to thicken, potentially to the point where they can obscure blood flow. MyoKardia plans to submit the drug for FDA approval for obstructive HCM in early 2021 and continue to develop it for patients with the non-obstructive form of HCM and those with a specific kind of heart failure, in which the left ventricle can’t properly fill with blood and pumps less blood to the body than normal.
LianBio has also licensed infigratinib, QED Therapeutics’ FGFR inhibitor that’s in a phase 3 study for bile duct cancer, and a SHP2 inhibitor that Navire Pharma is developing for drug-resistant tumors and other hard-to-treat cancers. LianBio hands over $26.5 million upfront
The company views these as more than just licensing deals, Debra Yu, LianBio’s chief business officer said. It plans to pitch in and run clinical trials in China and other parts of Asia where appropriate.
“It isn’t just like we get mavacamten and we go wherever we want with it and pay them the royalties,” Yu said.
“In the case of mavacamten, MyoKardia already got it all the way through for the obstructive HCM indication and we’ll take it into China,” she added. “But for the other indications, in nonobstructive HCM and (heart failure with preserved ejection fraction), we will work side by side with them.”
As for infigratinib, that could mean testing the drug in cancers that QED is not yet looking at, but that are prevalent in China, such as gastric cancer, she added.
It’s part of Perceptive and LianBio’s bid to bring cutting-edge medicines to China and address what CEO Bing Li calls the gap between global innovation and the China market.
“China has predominantly been a generics market for most of its time,” Yu said. “Even today, there is still a very limited number of innovative drugs and certainly not those we would call ‘paradigm-shifting.”
As it advances its pipeline, LianBio aims to double its team by the end of the year. It will be on the hunt for more assets that it might want to pursue in China, both through its deal with BridgeBio and other potential partners.
When asked if LianBio would ever dive into in-house discovery and development, Poukalov said “nothing is ever off the table,” but that the core focus of the company’s model is “high-quality assets that are highly significantly derisked.”
“But once our therapeutic areas of focus are established, we are certainly willing to move to earlier stages of development,” Poukalov added. That could include putting together novel cancer-fighting combinations based on Navire’s SHP2 inhibitor.
“In the near-term, I don’t think we are going to be doing true benchwork—there are plenty of people who are good at doing that—but we will be utilizing what we know and the access we have to be creative and do early-stage development work,” he said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove the dollar amount of LianBio's funding as it was incorrect.