Vivo Capital seeds new venture with $60M to take Arrowhead therapies to China

Arrowhead and Vivo Capital are forming a new company called Visirna Therapeutics to take four of the biotech’s RNAi therapies to China, with an initial investment of $60 million from the venture capital firm to get going.

The new joint venture will be focused on four of Arrowhead’s therapies for cardiometabolic diseases through a licensing deal. Vivo will put up an initial $60 million investment for work, with the aim of eventually launching them in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Arrowhead will have a majority stake in the new biotech and will be eligible for royalties on any resulting sales from the venture.

Vivo will then use its network in China to support the new company, including recruiting a leadership team, developing the new entity and formulating clinical and regulatory strategies.

Many companies seek partnerships with local companies that have deep roots in China to launch meds there. Arrowhead President and CEO Christopher Anzalone, Ph.D., said the company believes this is the quickest and most effective way to access the market, with people who “are solely focused on the intricacies of China’s clinical, regulatory and commercial environment.”

"We believe this structure will allow us to maximize the value of key Arrowhead assets without losing focus on our core business opportunities,” Anzalone said.

While the Arrowhead therapies are the initial focus, Vivo Managing Partner Hongbo Lu, Ph.D., teased a broader strategy to conduct internal R&D and strategic acquisitions of additional products.

Lu and Gaurav Aggarwal, Vivo Capital managing director, will join Visirna’s board. Arrowhead will also appoint members to the board.

The exact assets to be licensed by the new venture were not disclosed. Arrowhead has one phase 3 med called ARO-APOC3 under development for the metabolic disease hypertriglyceridemia, which is when triglycerides build up in the blood leading to pancreatitis or hardening of the arteries. ARO-ANG3 is in phase 2 studies for dyslipidemia, where abnormally high levels of cholesterol build up in the blood.

Arrowhead has partnerships with Takeda, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit, Amgen and Horizon Therapeutics.