U.S./China biotech hybrid lands $25M to back global R&D strategy

MicuRx--a U.S./China hybrid biotech touting a low-cost approach to research--has raised $25 million in venture cash to back its mid-stage research work on a new antibiotic.

China venture group BVCF stepped in to lead the round, supported by existing investors Morningside Group and Devon Park Bioventures. They're backing the parallel development of MRX-I, an oral oxazolidinone antibiotic targeting infections triggered by multidrug resistant Gram-positive bacteria, in the U.S. and China. MicuRx has facilities in Hayward, CA, and Shanghai. And the CEO boasts that the global strategy is lean and mean.

"Using a U.S.-China hybrid discovery and development model, MicuRx successfully completed design and optimization of its novel oxazolidinone drug candidates and advanced MRX-I through Phase I clinical trials with a fraction of the capital required through a traditional operating model in the U.S.," says CEO Zhengyu Yuan in a statement. "With the initiation of Phase II clinical trials in China, through the joint venture Shanghai MengKe Pharmaceuticals with Shanghai Zhangjiang Biomedical Industry Venture Capital, we look forward to initiating development of MRX-I through a Phase II clinical trial at selected centers in the U.S. to ensure successful development of this compound internationally."

MicuRx rounded up $10 million for its Series A back in 2007. MicuRx was founded by two former execs at Vicuron, which was snapped up by Pfizer in 2005 for $1.9 billion. In 2010 they struck a deal with Pfizer to develop a new treatment to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis. That deal reportedly was terminated not long after it began, but there's no word of that on the company's web site.

Drug R&D in China has been booming in recent years, and a number of venture groups are paying close attention to the trend. Domain Associates launched a new China initiative in the spring aimed at fostering new biotechs in China and in-licensing U.S. technology. OrbiMed is also now looking to establish a $300 million Asian fund with a close eye to the market in China.

Although clouded by new investigations into widespread corruption among the multinational pharma companies operating in China, the R&D industry has been growing by leaps and bounds. China has invested a total of more than $160 billion in building its biotech industry, according to a new assessment from Lux Research. And with 15 clusters--including 5 fast-growing "super" clusters--the huge Asian market is poised to leap past Japan and take the number two spot in terms of overall R&D spending on drug development.

Taking a distinctly bullish tone, Lux reports that the fast-growing biotech sector is evolving from basic research toward late-stage efforts and commercialization as more drugs are approved for use in China. Over the past four years China's native R&D industry--distinct from the Big Pharma operations that have been growing there--has produced more than 3,000 patents and 12 new drugs. And the country's economic czars plan to see that number of innovative new drugs swell to 100 by 2020.

- here's the press release

Special Reports: The Top 15 Biotech VC firms | Top 10 Big Pharma investments in China