InnoCare Pharma, based in Beijing, China, raised $289 million with its initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong. The retail tranche of the IPO was oversubscribed by about 300 times after receiving strong interest during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Our shares offering was well received by investors from all over the world, including many long-term oriented institutional investors,” said co-founder and chief executive officer Jasmine Cui Jisong in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “They include some very supportive cornerstone investors.”
The cornerstone investors are restricted by a six-month share sale moratorium from the time of listing. They have agreed to acquire $164 million (US) worth of shares at HK$8.18 to HK$8.95 each. Retail investors subscribed to 7.48 billion shares, which was 298.75 times the shares offered.
It was a bit unusual to go ahead with an IPO in the middle of a global pandemic, particularly one that originated in China. Cui told the Post that all the regulatory and financial documentation had been prepared and the executive team decided they would rather “get the IPO behind us so we can focus on the scientific projects.”
The company has nine drug candidates in human clinical trials. Its lead compound, orelabrutinib, has completed Phase II clinical trials for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, small lymphocytic leukemia, and mantle cell lymphoma.
About half of the funds raised will be used to advance orelabrutinib in China and the U.S. while the rest will fund research-and-development for other drugs.
On November 20, 2019, the company announced that the National Medical Products Administration of China (NMPA) had accepted its New Drug Application (NDA) for orelabrutinib for relapsed or refractory (r/r) chronic lymphoblastic leukemia (CLL)/small lymphoblastic lymphoma (SLL). The drug was developed internally and is currently being studied in China and the U.S. for a variety of B-cell cancers and autoimmune diseases.
At the time, Cui said, “I am very proud of our team. I sincerely thank the clinical investigators and patients as well. Through everyone’s joint efforts, we have achieved orelabrutinib’s first regulatory filing in such a short time. This is InnoCare’s first NDA and is a major milestone for us. InnoCare is one of the few innovative drug research and development institutions in China that has submitted an NDA application for an independently developed drug. This achievement is the combined result of China’s drug review and approval reforms, improvements in the investment and financing environment, and China’s clinical resource advantages. We expect that orelabrutinib will be submitted for more NDA applications for other indications and provide more treatment options for patients as early as possible.”
Orelabrutinib is a specific and selective BTK inhibitor. It is in Phase I, I and III trials as a monotherapy and in combination therapies.
The company was co-founded by Yigong Shi, a structural biologist and president and founder of Westlake University in Hangzhou, China, and Jisong Cui, an experienced biomedical executive, former chief executive officer and chief scientific officer of BioDuro, and former head of Early Development Team, Cardiovascular Diseases at Merck & Co. in the U.S. In addition to R&D centers in Beijing and Nanjing, China, the company has project management centers in Shanghai, a drug manufacturing base in Guangzhou, and branches in New Jersey and Boston for business development and clinical trial management.