10. Viela Bio

How Viela stacked up against other Big Biopharmas
Viela’s lead asset, inebilizumab, is a CD19-targeting monoclonal antibody that AstraZeneca tested in conditions such as multiple sclerosis and multiple myeloma. (Eli Richman/FierceBiotech)

Amount: $250 million
Round: Series A
Date: February
Investors: 6 Dimensions Capital, Boyu Capital, Hillhouse Capital, Sirona Capital Temasek 

The scoop: Viela Bio came to be when AstraZeneca, on a refocusing quest, hived off a clutch of programs in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

AstraZeneca contributed three clinical-stage programs—in neuromyelitis optica, myositis and an undefined autoimmune disease—as well as three preclinical programs, one of which appears to have been dropped since. It also gave Viela a management team comprising many of the same people who oversaw those assets at AstraZeneca. Bing Yao, Ph.D., formerly a senior vice president at AstraZeneca, took the helm as Viela CEO and brought with him a group of fellow alums, including Chief Medical Officer Jorn Drappa, M.D., Ph.D., and Aaron Ren, Ph.D., who heads up business development and operations. 

Viela’s lead asset, inebilizumab, is a CD19-targeting monoclonal antibody that AstraZeneca tested in multiple sclerosis, multiple myeloma and neuromyelitis optica, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the optic nerves and spinal cord.

Neuromyelitis optica is a relapsing-remitting disease: Attacks during a relapse cause new nerve damage that adds to a patient’s “accumulating disability,” which in this case can include vision loss, blindness and paralysis. Inebilizumab targets CD19 expressed by B cells that produce antibodies that attack the nervous system. If approved, the drug could replace the immunosuppressants and steroids now used off-label because they haven't been tested specifically in neuromyelitis optica.

The company announced pivotal results at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in May, showing that two doses of inebilizumab, given two weeks apart, reduced the risk of attacks in neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder patients by 73% during a six-month period. It plans to submit a BLA for the candidate in mid-2019.

10. Viela Bio

Suggested Articles

Avidity Biosciences is on a roll—after inking an R&D deal with Eli Lilly and hiring a new CEO, the company is reeling in $100 million.

What the NASH field needs, says Genfit CEO Pascal Prigent, is something like the Hb1Ac test for diabetes.

Blocking a newly discovered molecule produced by B cells could slow their flow into the brain and offer a new way to treat MS, a Canadian team found.