Juno Goes Global With Launch of New China-Based JW Biotechnology (Shanghai) Co.

Juno Goes Global With Launch of New China-based JW Biotechnology (Shanghai) Co.
April 8, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

SEATTLE – Juno Therapeutics has its eyes set on a global mission to develop treatments for cancer with the formation of a new Chinese company called JW Biotechnology Co., Ltd.

The new company, based in Shanghai, China, was formed with WuXi AppTec, an open-access R&D capability and technology platform company serving the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries, the companies jointly announced this morning. The new Chinese company’s mission will be to build a cell therapy company in China through using Juno’s chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and T cell receptor (TCR) technologies in combination with WuXi AppTec's R&D and manufacturing platform. JW Biotechnology will develop novel cell-based immunotherapies for patients with hematologic and solid-organ cancers, Juno said in a statement.

JW Biotechnology will be helmed by James Li, formerly a Kleiner Perkins partner and general manager of Amgen China. In a statement Li, also a co-founder of JW Biotechnology, said the combination of Juno’s expertise in cell therapy technologies and WuXi AppTec's contract services “holds the potential to save lives while transforming the treatment of cancer."

Like the U.S., cancer is a serious health threat in China. According to the American Cancer Society, there were approximately 4.3 million new diagnoses of cancer in China in 2015, along with about 2.8 million cancer-related deaths.

Cancer is considered the leading cause of death in China, according to the society’s information. The five leading causes of cancer death among both men and women in China are cancers of the lung and bronchus, stomach, liver, esophagus, and colorectum, accounting for about three-quarters of all cancer deaths, the American Cancer Society said.

Hans Bishop, chief executive officer of Juno, said those cancer rates in China make it imperative for the company to “find an effective structure to reach these patients.”

"Juno's goal is to create novel immuno-oncology therapies to treat cancer patients around the world across a range of cancer types,” Bishop said in a statement. “JW Biotechnology (Shanghai) Co., Ltd, with Dr. James Li as CEO, will be able to draw on a diverse set of expertise from our company. WuXi AppTec's track record of leadership and excellence in the Chinese pharmaceutical R&D sector will be key to develop and commercialize Juno's transformational technologies for patients in this important market."

Ge Li, CEO of WuXi AppTec, said regulatory reforms implemented by the Chinese government are expected to drive growth and demand for quality medicines that target major unmet medical needs in China.

White-hot Juno has been on a tear through 2015. The Seattle-based company has been on a hiring spree for the past two years. Juno’s website lists dozens of positions in manufacturing, medical, quality assurance, research, marketing and more. Juno is developing cell-based cancer immunotherapies based on chimeric antigen receptor and high-affinity T cell receptor technologies to genetically engineer T cells to recognize and kill cancer. In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Juno’s Investigational New Drug application for JCAR015 for treatment of adult patients with relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which will allow the company to initiate Phase II clinical trials. In June 2015, Juno’s oncology research was bolstered after Celgene Corporation (CELG) took a $1 billion stake in the company to leverage combined immunology and oncology expertise to develop treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases.

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