1. BeiGene, 2. Chi-Med, 3. Harbour BioMed, 4. Hua Medicine, 5. I-Mab Biopharma, 6. Innovent Biologics, 7. Junshi Biosciences, 8. Legend Biotech, 9. Zai Lab, 10. CStone Pharmaceuticals. There is a list of the top 10 best biotech companies in China, judging from the size of the venture rounds they raised in addition to the innovative research they are carrying out.
- Harbour BioMed
- Hua Medicine
- I-Mab Biopharma
- Innovent Biologics
- Junshi Biosciences
- Legend Biotech
- Zai Lab
- CStone Pharmaceuticals
John Oyler cofounded BeiGene in 2010 after successfully growing and selling two previous businesses: telecom research firm Telephia and CRO BioDuro. He’d previously served as CEO of MIT spinoff Galenea and oncology-focused Genta. But he’s in it for the long run with BeiGene. The purpose is to “create China’s Genentech,” with a focus on cancer, particularly cancers that impact Chinese people. The concept is straightforward: China has a vast cancer population that is occasionally underserved.
BeiGene, like many other Chinese biotechs, was founded by Western-trained biopharma veterans. Among them is cofounder Xiaodong Wang, a well-known biochemist who was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2004. Executives at the company, which has expanded its pipeline and roster, nevertheless have a foreign biopharma experience. “What China has is the beginning of a very powerful industry,” Oyler said in a 2017 interview with the South China Morning Post. “It’s not a surprise that so much brilliant talent is coming back from the U.S. or Europe.”
BeiGene’s growth route is likewise peppered with collaborations with big biopharma conglomerates. More than three years before its $75 million series A, news spread that the company had received a sizable investment from Merck & Co. BeiGene earned a reputation for itself in 2013 by selling rights to two medications to Merck KGaA: the PARP inhibitor pamiparib (BGB-290) and the RAF dimer inhibitor lifirafenib (BGB-283).
Headquarters: 55 Cambridge Parkway, Cambridge
CEO: John Oyler
Screenshot via beigene.com
Image by BeiGene via beigene.com
Hutchison China MediTech, or Chi-Med, is a biotech business with an unconventional structure. Hutchison Whampoa, which was founded in 2000 and later integrated with Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s conglomerate CK Hutchison, established what it calls a “commercial platform” from the start.
The company has various joint ventures with established Chinese pharmaceutical companies concentrating on prescription pharmaceuticals and consumer health goods, as well as third-party distribution and marketing services. Christian Hogg, the company’s first employee, formerly worked for consumer giant Procter & Gamble.
Despite the fact that Chi-Med handles certain operations, the products are mostly contributed by its JV partners or sold on behalf of other firms, with many of them not consolidated by Chi-Med in its financial reporting. The commercial platform generated $189 million in revenue in 2019.
Elunate (fruquintinib), a VEGFR inhibitor developed by Chi-Med, was approved in China in 2018 to treat colorectal cancer patients who had failed at least two prior treatments. It was the company’s first innovative pharmaceutical, as well as the first China-made medicine for a major cancer type to complete the whole R&D and commercialization process in China.
Headquarters: Shanghai, China
CEO: Christian Hogg
Screenshot via hutch-med.com/
Harbour BioMed is one of the Best Biotech Companies in China. Itdescribes itself as a global biopharmaceutical enterprise. It’s true that labeling Harbour as a Chinese corporation can be difficult; its website isn’t even in Chinese, and its news releases these days begin with three cities in the dateline—Cambridge, Massachusetts, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Suzhou, China.
Harbour’s research interests are on oncology and immunology. While the business is developing novel compounds from the ground up, HanAll Biopharma licensed its two lead programs, anti-FcRn antibody batoclimab and TNF-alpha inhibitor tanfanercept. Harbour is putting batoclimab through its paces in a variety of conditions, including NMOSD, myasthenia gravis, and immune thrombocytopenia. According to the company’s application (PDF) to HKEX, the medicine will be submitted for Chinese approval in NMOSD and MG in 2022.
Headquarters: 2F, Tower A, 420 Fenglin Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai
CEO: Jingsong Wang
Image by Harbour BioMed via harbourbiomed.com
Screenshot via harbourbiomed.com
Hua Medicine is a unique exception among China’s cancer enterprises, producing medications for diabetes and central nervous system illnesses. Hua developed a potential first-in-class oral diabetes medication that targets glucokinase, a glucose sensor found in the pancreas and liver.
Activating faulty glucokinase to restore normal regulation of glucose balance is one of the primary prospects for combating Type 2 diabetes, but despite encouraging early results, several Big Pharma companies have attempted and failed in their attempts.
Hua announced in November that the phase 3 Seed trial of dorzagliatin monotherapy had met its primary goal. It was discovered that the medicine reduced new patients’ HbA1c blood sugar levels by an average of 1.07% from baseline of 8.35% after 24 weeks of treatment, compared to a reduction of 0.5% from baseline of 8.37% for placebo. Only 45.4% of dorzagliatin patients met the American Diabetes Association’s treatment goal of HbA1c < 7%, whereas only 21.5% of placebo patients could. Furthermore, less than 1% of dorzagliatin patients had hypoglycemia during the study period.
Headquarters: No.2, Lane 36, Xuelin Road, Pudong District, Shanghai
CEO: Li Chen
Screenshot via huamedicine.com
Jingwu Zang, former chief of R&D at GlaxoSmithKline in China, founded I-Mab Biopharma in late 2014 and officially launched it in 2016. Joan Shen, the company’s current CEO, came in 2017 after working in R&D at Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Jiangsu Hengrui, and Pfizer. With its top two executives coming from Big Pharma, I-Mab’s goals are not limited to China. Soon after Shen joined, it established its US subsidiary as a global R&D hub. It is also one of only a few Chinese corporations that has chosen Nasdaq for its stock listing.
The lead candidate in I-Mab’s China pipeline is felzartamab (TJ202/MOR202), a CD38 antibody licensed from German biotech MorphoSys in 2017 for $20 million upfront. I-Mab chose the medicine because of its shorter infusion time—two hours or less, vs up to 6.5 hours for Johnson & Johnson’s CD38 drug Darzalex. Sarclisa, a recently approved competitor from Sanofi, has a 200-minute infusion period in the first treatment cycle, then decreases to 75 minutes in the third cycle and thereafter.
I-Mab is conducting two registrational trials for felzartamab: a phase 2 trial with dexamethasone in third-line relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma patients, and a phase 3 trial with Revlimid as a third component for second-line patients. Shen told investors on a conference call in August that the company intends to apply for Chinese permission in the second or third quarter of next year.
Headquarters: 555 West Haiyang RoadNew Bund Center, Floor 55Shanghai, China
CEO: Joan Huaqiong Shen
Image by I-Mab Biopharma via i-mabbiopharma.com
Innovent Biologics is one of the Best Biotech Companies in China. Itis best known for its collaboration with Eli Lilly on the PD-1 inhibitor Tyvyt (sintilimab), co-invented by Innovent CEO Michael Yu and approved in China in December 2018 for relapsed or refractory classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cHL) after at least two prior lines of therapy.
Dozens of PD-1/L1 medicines are being developed in China amid an I-O mania, all expecting to mimic or even outperform Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and Merck’s Keytruda clinical results. According to Frost & Sullivan, the Chinese PD-1 market will contribute $13.1 billion to the global PD-1 market of $78.9 billion by 2030. Innovent is definitely one of those touting best-in-class potential for its candidate. Its optimism is based on Tyvyt’s higher affinity to its target compared with Keytruda and Opdivo, and it appears to occupy more of the PD-1 binding sites than Opdivo.
Innovent makes developing and selling “high quality biopharmaceutical products that are affordable to ordinary people” as its mission. Guided by that motto—and a goal of quickly snaring market share amid increasingly heated competition—Innovent and Lilly this year cut Tyvyt’s price by 64% to become the first and only PD-1 covered by China’s National Reimbursement Drug List. In the first half of 2020, Innovent recorded Tyvyt sales of CNY 920.9 million ($137.4 million).
Headquarters: 168 Dongping Street, Suzhou Industrial Park,Jiangsu 215123, China
CEO: De-Chao Michael Yu
Image by Innovent Bio via innoventbio.com
Junshi Biosciences is another Chinese company with a marketed PD-1 inhibitor, but its Tuoyi (toripalimab) has two firsts: it’s the first homegrown PD-1/L1 inhibitor to be approved in China—or anywhere—and it’s the first China-made checkpoint inhibitor to be designated as a breakthrough by the FDA.
With its December 2018 Chinese approval in previously treated melanoma, Junshi stepped right into the domain of Merck’s Keytruda, which received its initial China approval in the same indication five months earlier. For their registrational trials, the two medications even used the same primary investigator.
Eli Lilly invested $245 million for ex-China rights to Junshi’s neutralizing antibody against SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus driving COVID-19, in May. The medicine, dubbed etesevimab (JS016/LY-CoV016), was created collaboratively by Junshi and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology.
The Junshi medication would be used in an antibody cocktail with another AbCellera-partnered product named bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555). However, the Junshi medication may play a larger role now that bamlanivimab failed as a monotherapy in hospitalized patients in the ACTIV-3 study, which is being conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Headquarters: 7 15f, Building Crystal Plz No 6 Lane 100 Shanghai, 200001 China
CEO: Ning Li
Screenshot via junshipharma.com
Legend Biotech was launched in 2014 as an early-stage cell treatment firm. The company was founded by visionary scientists who realized the promise of antibody-based medicines to treat disease and had the necessary expertise in immunology and gene editing to take the risk.
For two years, Legend Biotech, then known as the “Legend Project,” worked in a freight elevator-sized chamber to develop a cell therapy for multiple myeloma, a hematological cancer that frequently relapses and can become refractory. The researchers created nanobodies for single-domain antibody therapeutics and then used patented methods to enhance the nanobodies’ half-life.
Several health authorities across the world are presently reviewing applications for cilta-cel authorisation for the treatment of patients with RRMM. CARVYKTITM (ciltacabtagene autoleucel) was licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration in February 2022, and the European Medicines Agency granted conditional marketing clearance in May 2022.
Headquarters: 2101 Cottontail Lane Somerset, NJ 08873, USA
CEO: Ying Huang
Screenshot via legendbiotech.com
Positioning itself as the “gateway to China for innovative assets,” Zai currently leans heavily on in-licensing products for China development and commercialization. “Around 70% of innovative drugs have not yet been brought to China, even though they’ve been approved elsewhere,” Du said in a Nature Review Drug Discovery interview in 2018. “So we started with thinking about picking this low-hanging fruit, by in-licensing post-approval projects or compounds that have made it past phase 3.”
Zai’s clinical pipeline covers drugs bought from a broad range of companies, mostly foreign biotechs that don’t have operations in China. Companies Zai has licensed drugs from include GlaxoSmithKline, Regeneron, Incyte, Deciphera, Entasis Therapeutics, Five Prime Therapeutics, MacroGenics, Novocure and Paratek Pharmaceuticals.
In 2016, Zai obtained China rights to Tesaro’s PARP inhibitor Zejula, two years before GSK acquired Tesaro for $5.1 billion. At the end of 2019, the drug was cleared by Chinese authorities as a maintenance therapy for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer who respond to platinum-based chemotherapy, making it Zai Lab’s first commercial product in the Chinese mainland. In September, Zejula was further approved in the front-line maintenance setting.
CEO: Samantha Du
Screenshot via zailaboratory.com
Image by zailaboratory via zailaboratory.com
CStone is a biopharmaceutical company focused on researching, developing, and commercializing innovative immuno-oncology and precision medicines to address the unmet medical needs of cancer patients in China and worldwide. Established in 2015, CStone has assembled a management team with extensive experience in innovative drug development, clinical research, and commercialization.
The company has built an oncology-focused pipeline of 15 drug candidates with a strategic emphasis on immuno-oncology combination therapies. Currently, CStone has received ten NDA approvals for four drugs. CStone’s vision is to become globally recognized as a world-renowned biopharmaceutical company by bringing innovative oncology therapies to cancer patients worldwide.
Jiang formerly served as the chief of Asia-Pacific R&D for a French pharmaceutical company. However, CStone has just built a name for itself thanks to a Pfizer partnership. Pfizer paid $200 million in September for a 9.9% stake in CStone, with up to $280 million in milestones, in exchange for exclusive China commercialization rights to the biotech’s lead candidate, PD-L1 antibody sugemalimab, even as the New York pharma’s Merck KGaA-partnered PD-L1 inhibitor Bavencio is undergoing China-specific trials.
CStone’s aim is to establish a cancer pipeline around three immuno-oncology backbone drugs: sugemalimab, CS1003, and CTLA-4 inhibitor CS1002. CStone reached outside to develop that combo pipeline. In June 2018, CStone acquired China rights to the gastrointestinal stromal tumor medication Ayvakit, the RET inhibitor Gavreto, and the FGFR4 inhibitor fisogatinib through a basket agreement with Blueprint Medicines.
Headquarters: Suzhou, Jiangsu, China
CEO: Frank Ningjun Jiang
Screenshot via cstonepharma.com