MabSpace gets $15M as Lilly Asian Ventures bets on immune approach

Suzhou-based MabSpace Biosciences has raised $15 million in Series A funding from Lilly ($LLY) Asia Ventures to develop the biotech's technology for antibodies that break the tolerance of the immune system.

In a release, the company said the cash will "be used to advance MabSpace's pipeline of therapeutic antibody programs into clinical studies, and enable expanded discovery of novel antibodies aimed at various components of tumor microenvironment to enhance responses of tumors that may be less likely to respond to T cell checkpoint monotherapy."

Lilly, either under its venture arm or through licensing partnerships, has a slew of deals in China among companies in stages of clinical development such as ZAI Lab, Hutchison China MediTech, BeiGene and Yabao--and a highly noted tie-up with Innovent Biologics that could lead to more than $1 billion in milestones from Lilly.

"We believe that MabSpace has built a differentiated approach rooted in its unique immune tolerance breaking based antibody discovery platform and translational science capabilities that position it to bring the next wave of innovation to the field," said Stephen Lin, principal at Lilly Asia Ventures, in the release.

MabSpace has joined a series of companies in the space in China, agreeing earlier this year to work with Genor Biopharma, the mAb division of Walvax Group, to discover and develop unspecified antibody targets. Under the terms of the deal, Genor gets exclusive global rights on any candidates for the nominated targets, while MabSpace gets upfront R&D funding, regulatory milestones and royalties on global sales.

In May, it signed an agreement with Jiangsu Hengrui to co-develop novel antibody therapeutics on two unspecified targets--with terms seeing MabSpace responsible for the discovery and selection and Jiangsu Hengrui awarded global rights on any candidates with the option for further development.

Later the same month, Jiangsu Hengrui won U.S. FDA approval of its oxaliplatin to treat colon and rectal cancer.

- here's the release