- CStone, a Chinese biotech company, raised $150 million in Series A financing to move several programs into clinical testing, the firm said over the weekend.
- Venture financiers Oriza Seed Venture Capital, Boyu Capital and WuXi Healthcare Ventures jointly backed CStone.
- CStone hopes to become a research leader in China and has eyes on the global market as well. Although the company's pipeline includes treatments for a number of therapeutic areas, development is focused on immuno-oncology.
Although the conversation around China's pharmaceutical market typically revolves around multinational partnerships, manufacturing and market entry strategies, CStone's recent round of financing marks a different but increasingly common role for China's biopharma industry: original R&D.
"CStone will emerge as a leading R&D platform in China to provide innovative immunotherapy for oncology diseases," said Yanlin Cao, Managing Director of Boyu, one of the company's investors.
China is currently working to revamp its regulatory framework for the industry, while clamping down on corruption and speeding up drug approvals at the same time. Similar to its emerging-market neighbor India, China hopes to strengthen and grow its domestic biopharma industry.
And these efforts come at just the right time. IMS Health predicts Chinese drug spending will grow to between $150 billion and $180 billion by 2020, up from the current $115 billion.
International pharma companies like Pfizer and Novartis are betting big on this growth, expanding their R&D efforts in the country. Pfizer, for example, just announced it would spend $350 million to open a new biotech hub in Hangzhou, China, which will be the pharma giant's first in Asia.
CStone's CEO, Frank Jiang, comes with years of experience in drug development in both the U.S. and Asia, including the last 10 years as Sanofi's Head of Asia-Pacific R&D. While at Sanofi, Jiang helped establish the company's regional R&D framework, which encompassed China and Japan.
Jiang does not hide his company's aspirations to gain global presence.
"We will initially focus on immuno-oncology therapeutics to address the specific unmet medical needs of Chinese cancer patients, but I envisage a long-term future for CStone as a well-recognized global player to develop innovative medicines in the fight against serious diseases," he said.