Caixin
Jun 10, 2021 05:41 AM
BUSINESS & TECH

Chinese mRNA Vaccine Developer Raises a Record $200 Million

Researchers at Stemirna Therapeutics demonstrate the company’s mRNA Covid-19 vaccine.
Researchers at Stemirna Therapeutics demonstrate the company’s mRNA Covid-19 vaccine.

Vaccine startup Stemirna Therapeutics raised $200 million, a record for Chinese vaccine developers specializing in messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, showing that venture capital continues to bet on the technology to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and future viral threats.

The fundraising, the ninth investment round for Chinese mRNA vaccine enterprises since 2020, was led by investors including China Merchants Group’s health sector investment arm and Sequoia Capital China, Stemirna said.

The Shanghai-based company’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate will soon start a Phase 2 trial and is expected to show effectiveness against variants found in South Africa, Brazil and India, founder and Chief Executive Officer Li Hangwen said. The funds will finance clinical trials and production of the vaccine candidate, the company said.

Currently two mRNA Covid-19 vaccines—one developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech and another by Moderna—are in use globally. The mRNA technology delivers a bit of genetic code to cells, teaching the cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response to the virus.

Those vaccines outperformed others in clinical trials. The Pfizer vaccine showed efficacy of 95% at preventing symptomatic Covid infection after two doses, while the Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective, compared with 79.34% for Sinopharm’s inactivated virus vaccine.

The mRNA vaccines are by far the most-administered Covid-19 shots in the world and have shown promising results both in clinical trials and in the real world. Compared with other vaccines, mRNA inoculations can be rapidly adjusted to respond to viral mutations and are capable of activating stronger cellular immunity, Stemirna’s CEO said.

Stemirna’s record fundraising followed a 600 million yuan B round by Suzhou Abogen Biosciences Co. Ltd. in April from investors including PICC Capital Equity Investment Co. Ltd., SDIC Venture Capital and Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital.

An mRNA Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by Abogen and the Institute of Military Medicine under the Academy of Military Sciences started a Phase 3 clinical trial in May.

The mRNA vaccines have high production barriers and only a few companies have mastered the technology, said Abogen founder Ying Bo.

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

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