Blazing a trail in China
Name: John Oyler
Title: CEO of BeiGene
Back in 2009, after selling his Chinese-headquartered CRO to PPD for about $80 million, American expat John Oyler found himself out of a job.
Oyler made the move to China years before in hopes of starting a biotech company. China had long established itself as a player in the global science world, but its participation in biopharma was largely limited to providing services to multinational drugmakers, which had proven lucrative for the likes of WuXi PharmaTech, ShangPharma and Bioduro, Oyler's former employer.
But he was done working to accelerate the compounds of others, going back to the original goal of building a proprietary drug developer within China. With Bioduro now in someone else's hands, Oyler and friend and biochemist Xiaodong Wang resolved over dinner to "build China's Genentech," and thus the framework of BeiGene ($BGNE) came into place.
Six years later, BeiGene has grown to employ more than 215 people, with about 150 focused on R&D. The Beijing-headquartered biotech has raised more than $170 million in venture financing, signed partnerships with major pharma companies and built a pipeline of four clinical cancer candidates. Perhaps most impressive, Oyler's company managed to pull off a successful U.S. IPO amid a sector-wide downturn, raising more than $150 million earlier this year and now trading roughly 25% above its initial price.
With the proceeds, BeiGene is pressing forward with BGB-3111, a Phase II treatment for blood cancer that, like Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) blockbuster Imbruvica, blocks the enzyme BTK to kill malignancies. Behind that is the Merck KGaA-partnered BGB-283, a treatment for solid tumors now in clinical development, and two Phase I therapies targeting the PD-1 and PARP pathways.
And while BeiGene hasn't reached the Genentech echelon just yet, the company has demonstrated that the traditional biotech step ladder--promising science, big venture round, pharma partnership, IPO--is available to companies in China.
-- Damian Garde (email | Twitter)
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