Caixin
Aug 18, 2020 03:03 AM
BUSINESS & TECH

Chinese Cancer Treatment Developer JW Therapeutics Plans HK IPO

A joint venture between Juno Therapeutics and WuXi AppTec eyes a flotation on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
A joint venture between Juno Therapeutics and WuXi AppTec eyes a flotation on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Chinese biotechnology company JW Therapeutics is planning an initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong, joining a rush of pharmaceutical and biotech IPOs in the city.

JW Therapeutics, a joint venture between American biopharmaceutical company Juno Therapeutics and Chinese biotech WuXi AppTec, filed a draft prospectus with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

It didn’t disclose the size of the offering, but earlier media reports suggest JW plans to raise $200 million to $300 million. Goldman Sachs and UBS are listed as sponsors.

The Shanghai-based company, founded in 2016, develops cell-based therapy technologies to treat cancer. Investors are drawn by the potential of JW Therapeutics’ main technology, Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Immunotherapy, or CAR T-cell therapy, a type of treatment in which a patient's immune cells are taken from the blood and then genetically modified in the laboratory so they will attack cancer cells. These treatments have captured the attention of researchers and investors because of the remarkable responses they have produced in cancer patients.

With an aging population, an increasing number of cancer patients and rising disposable income, Chinese cancer patients are more willing and able to pay for more expensive innovative treatments, consulting firm Frost & Sullivan said. China’s CAR T-cell therapy market is expected to grow nine-fold from 600 million yuan ($86.5 million) in 2021 to 5.4 billion yuan in 2024, Frost & Sullivan estimated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two CAR T-cell therapies in 2017. One is Novartis International AG’s Kymriah for the treatment of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which generated $278 million of revenue in 2019. The other is Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Yescarta for adults with advanced lymphomas, which had $456 million of sales last year.

Juno owns a 26% stake in the joint venture, while WuXi AppTec owns 14.2%. Other investors include Chinese private equity firms Loyal Valley Capital, CPE and Sequoia Capital China, Singapore’s Temasek, South Korean investment firm Mirae Asset Financial Group and U.S.-based venture capital firm ARCH Venture Partners. In June, the company closed a $100 million series-B round of financing after a $168 million first round of financing last year.

JW has seven drug candidates in its pipeline, none of which has reached the commercialization stage. In June, the company submitted a new drug application for a lymphoma treatment to the National Medical Products Administration of China.

In the first half of 2020, the company had a net loss of 650 million yuan. JW said it expects operating losses to increase over the next few years as a result of continued preclinical research, clinical trials and the need to hire additional staff.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com)

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