Chinese biopharma firm developing diabetes drugs raises $122 million in lead-up to IPO

Business & Technology

China has the world’s largest population of diabetics. Pegbio is raising boatloads of money to develop drugs to treat diabetes and other chronic conditions.

Pegbio, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in developing drugs to treat chronic diseases, especially diabetes and obesity, announced last week that it has raised around 800 million yuan ($122 million) in a pre-IPO round. No valuation was mentioned.

  • The round was led by Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital, Yingke PE, and life-science-specialized TF Capital, and joined by Qianhai FoF, Zhongxin Huihai Investment Fund Management, Yuanfeng Capital, and the existing investor YuanBio Venture Capital.
  • Pegbio said it has begun preparation work to go public on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR market.
  • Pegbio was founded by Chinese-American scientist Michael Xu (徐敏 Xú Mǐn), who participated in Beijing’s Thousand Talent Plan, a Chinese science and technology recruitment program that has been facing intensive scrutiny from Washington.

Xu was named a “State Specially Recruited Expert” under the Thousand Talent Plan for his entrepreneurship, according to Pegbio’s website.

  • Xu earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry and his M.B.A. from Columbia University in 1996, after an undergraduate degree from Xiangya School of Medicine at Central South University.
  • After moving back to China in 1997, Xu worked for multiple American and Chinese pharmaceutical companies before founding his first biotechnology company in 2001.
  • Xu founded Pegbio in 2008 to focus on the research and development (R&D) of macromolecular drugs to fight chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver, gout, constipation, and cardiovascular illnesses.

Pegbio will use the latest funding to promote its drugs’ global clinical trials, support drug R&D, and introduce licensed drugs from overseas to the Chinese market.

  • Pegbio’s flagship drug candidate PB-119, which treats type 2 diabetes, has begun the Phase 3 clinical trial in China after completing the first two phases in both the U.S. and China, according to the company’s announcement last month.
  • Pegbio is also working with American global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to develop a new type of drug for diabetes treatment — PB-201. As part of the partnership, Pegbio began the drug’s Phase 1 clinical trials in Beijing last August.

China is witnessing a surge in diabetes patients. Nearly 130 million Chinese are suffering from diabetes, making China the country with the highest number of diabetics in the world, according to Xinhua. Han Chinese also develop diabetes at lower levels of excess weight, at least when compared with Caucasian populations.

  • 12.8% of adults in China now have diabetes, compared with less than 1% in 1980. The trend has raised the alarm for health authorities, who began to invest aggressively in the procurement and development of diabetes drugs.
  • In 2017, Pegbio’s ongoing R&D of PB-119 was titled a “Major Science and Technology Project for New Drug Creation” under Beijing’s 13th Five-Year Plan, and received more than 15 million yuan ($2.3 million) of special funding from China’s National Health Commission.