On February 26th, the biopharmaceutical company Gracell Biotechnologies (亘喜生物) completes the series B financing in a total of USD 85 million led by Temasek and followed by Lily Asia Ventures (礼来亚洲基金), Kington Capital (翼朴资本), King Star Capital, and Miaoji Pharma (成都妙济).
Gracell focuses on developing cellular therapeutics for hematological malignancy, solid tumor, or degenerative disease patients. It offers gene editing platform for antibody engineering, expression editing, and gene editing for treating solid cancer. T cells can be engineered to express chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) against tumor specific antigen. The fund raised in series B will be used to develop the next generation of CAR-T (T cell that could express CAR) technologies, which aims to develop types of T cells with dual CARs (“parallel CAR” and “split CAR”).
The new generation of CAR-T can reduce the risk and improve the targeted therapy accuracy to kill cancer cells. Gracell is the second healthcare case Temasek invested in 2019. In 2018, Temasek invested 12 healthcare-related enterprises and the Innovent (信达生物) it invested in April has gone public in Hong Kong Stock Exchange since October 2018 with an initial public offering price of HKD 3.3 billion (USD 421 million). Temasek’s frequently invested in the healthcare industry in 2017 and 2018. Besides Temasek, Lily Asia Ventures’ portfolios are composed of biopharmaceutical and health management companies, in which most biopharmaceutical companies are developing targeted therapies.
Targeted therapy, as being regarded as the most effective and has least side effect in treating cancer, is actively studied whether by universities, hospitals, or biopharmaceutical companies. Cancer as one of the “incurable” diseases has threatened the life of millions. In 2016, estimated approximately8.7 million people died from cancer and 1.9 million of them died from tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancers (respiratory system cancers). Some types of cancers can be cured with chance such as acute leukemia, breast cancer, melanoma, and others. But current treatments like chemo and drugs bring damages and has strong side effects on patients. Though targeted therapy is theoretically more effective and has near-to-none side effects, the technologies stay at treating solid tumors in most labs. Besides the types of cancer, the R&D period and approval process might take years. Hence, targeted therapies available in the market are far from covering the demand