China-US Biopharma Developer LianBio Files for $100 Million IPO

The clinical-stage startup addresses the challenges Western biopharma companies face in entering the Chinese medical market.
Oct. 04, 2021 20:31
China-US Biopharma Developer LianBio Files for $100 Million IPO

(CapitalWatch, Oct. 4, New York) LianBio, a biopharma startup operating in China and the United States, has filed for an initial public offering in New York worth up to $100 million.

LianBio has a pipeline of nine product candidates in five therapeutic areas including oncology. The company focuses on in-licensing assets to Greater China and other Asian markets, taking advantage of Beijing's medical development initiatives and addressing the challenges Western pharma companies face in entering the Chinese market, the second-largest globally.  

LianBio's three late-stage development drugs are Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY) mavacamten for the treatment of obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the TP-03 eye solution developed with Tarsus Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: TARS), and NBTXR3, a radiosensitizer developed with Nanobiotix S.A. (Nasdaq: NBTX). Among other partnerships, the company also collaborates with Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) on commercial infrastructure and BridgeBio Pharma LLC (Nasdaq: BBIO) on its pipeline of 20 product candidates.

The clinical-stage biopharma has yet to turn up revenue. Net losses were $139.6 million in 2020 and $162 million in the first half of 2021.

Chairman Konstantin Poukalov is a managing director at Perceptive Advisors, a private hedge fund that owns the controlling stake in LianBio. Other backers are BridgeBio and RA Capital.

LianBio's CFO, Yi Larson, comes from Goldman Sachs, underwriting the IPO. She was also the executive vice president and CFO at Turning Point Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: TPTX) in California. As to the chief executive of LianBio, Yizhe Wang, he previously served at the global and China oncology and anti-Covid therapy units of Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY). Before that, he was with GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE: GSK).

China-related Risks

With headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, LianBio conducts the majority of its operations in China and is open to risks associated with the Chinese regulatory environment and the Sino-American relations. 

Over the past few weeks, Chinese firms have gradually begun to apply for U.S. listings after the summer freeze that began in mid-July, when Beijing said it was reviewing its rules for overseas fundraisings. The tightening occurred shortly after the $4.4 billion IPO of Didi Global Inc. (NYSE: DIDI), hit hard by Chinese regulators after the listing they reportedly opposed. As Beijing prepared new laws, several scheduled and awaited Chinese IPOs in New York were canceled or postponed.

Now, however, IPO filings are trickling through to the U.S. SEC again. New measures on overseas listings were so far imposed in areas of cybersecurity and information protection and may foremost impact companies dealing with large amounts of user data at risk of being illegally used or exported. Companies that have since applied for IPOs, such as Jin Medical International, note in their filings that the new changes do not impact their business but risks of new regulations that may have an impact remain.

In its prospectus, LianBio states that it does not maintain personally identifiable health information of patients in China but "collect and maintain de-identified or psuedonymized health data for clinical trials." And LianBio goes on to say that there is a risk that scientific data obtained in its research "could be deemed as personal data or important data" – terms that currently lack clarity.

While uncertainties remain, "To our understanding, the Chinese government has not required life sciences companies to upload clinical study data to any government-designated data centers, or prevented the cross-border transmission and sharing of clinical study data," the company said.

Lastly, to commercialize drugs in China, LianBio must get the green light from China's National Medical Products Administration of China even if U.S. FDA-approved.

LianBio has applied to trade its shares on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol "LIAN." LianBio has hired Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, Jefferies LLC, BofA Securities Inc., and Raymond James & Associates Inc. to secure its listing.