Apexigen lands $20M round as China biotech partners advance antibodies

A startup drug developer with close ties to China's biotech industry has landed a $20 million A round to push ahead with its clinical development work on antibodies that can help fight off cancer and inflammatory diseases. Apexigen, a Burlingame, CA-based company that was spun out of Epitomics three years ago, says that much of the money will be used to work on an in-house cancer immunotherapy dubbed APX005.

Amkey Ventures led the round with assistance from WSR Capital, China Development Industrial Bank, Themes Investment Partners, and Sycamore Ventures.

APX005 targets CD40 molecules, a popular target that promises to stimulate an immune response to cancer while also killing tumor cells directly. The company has been working with a license for Epitomics' antibody technology, which humanizes antibodies generated by a rabbit's immune system to fight off disease. And it has close ties with a string of biotechs operating in China--a booming market that has beckoned drug developers for years.

Over the past few years, Simcere, Shenyang, China-based 3SBio and Jiangsu T-mab Biotechnology have struck deals to work with Apexigen. Last November Simcere said that it had received an approval from regulators in China to launch a clinical study of APX003, an anti-VEGF antibody in-licensed from Apexigen. A few months earlier 3SBio filed an IND in China on APX001, a new program for autoimmune and anti-inflammatory diseases. And Boehringer Ingelheim signed on as a manufacturer for the biotech last fall.

"The level of interest and enthusiasm in Apexigen, as seen in the oversubscription rate, provides a significant vote of confidence in our progress to-date and in our prospects going forward" said Apexigen CEO Xiaodong Yang in a statement. "This financing provides us the financial strength to complete the transition from start-up mode toward a focus on the development of innovative new therapeutics."

- here's the press release

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