Juno Therapeutics Spinout Raises $90M
JW Therapeutics, headquartered in Shanghai, China, a clinical stage biopharma company founded by Juno Therapeutics and WuXi AppTec in 2016, closed a Series A financing worth $90 million. It was led by Temasek, Sequoia Capital China and YuanMing Capital. It was joined by Oriza Seed Capital, Yipu Capital, AVICT Global Holdings, as well as WuXi AppTec Group and Juno Therapeutics.
Juno, which was acquired by Celgene earlier this year, and WuXi launched JW to be a new CAR-T biotech company. JW’s first CD19-directed compound, JWCAR029, a CAR-T therapy for B-cell malignancies, is now in the clinic. Its Investigational New Drug (IND) application has been accepted by the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA).
“The proceeds from this round of financing will be used to further advance our JWCAR029 clinical program, develop a therapeutic pipeline and build a new commercial manufacturing facility,” said James Li, JW’s co-founder and chief executive officer, in a statement. “It will greatly accelerate the development and commercialization of JW Therapeutics’ portfolio to meet the vast unmet medical needs and provide innovative treatment options to patients in China.”
Li was the founding general manager for Amgen in China. The other co-founder and the company’s chair is Ge Li, who is also the chairman of WuXi AppTec.
JW acquired exclusive China rights to JWCAR029 from Juno Therapeutics for an undisclosed amount.
JW Therapeutics was founded to be China’s leading cell therapy company. It was designed to leverage Juno’s CAR-T technologies and WuXi AppTec’s research-and-development and manufacturing platform, as well as local and regional expertise. At its founding, Hans Bishop, Juno’s president and chief executive officer, and a board member of JW, said in a statement, “Juno’s goal is to create novel immuno-oncology therapies to treat cancer patients around the world across a range of cancer types. Over 2.5 million people in China die annually from cancer, making it imperative for us to find an effective structure to reach these patients. 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.”
As part of the original development of the company, Juno and WuXi had equal ownership. Once specific conditions were met, JW had the chance to license product candidates from Juno’s pipeline for development and commercialization in China. In exchange, Juno would receive upfront payments in equity, milestone payments, and royalties on any net sales.
The investment appears to be another marker of the biotech boom in China. Nature recently wrote, “Today, biotech specialists arriving in China find an industry at a turning point, with many key elements in place for innovation: a university system churning out doctorates and strong basic research, substantial financial backing from both the private and public sectors, regulations that are becoming globally harmonized and a vibrant group of entrepreneurial leaders with ambitions for China and abroad.”