China-focused RuiYi starts PhI in China on autoimmune candidate RYI-008

China-focused biotech RuiYi has started a Phase I trial of autoimmune candidate RYI-008, or gerilimzumab, focused on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in China, building on cash raised last year that was aimed at drug development in the Middle Kingdom.

The company's trans-Pacific operations in San Diego and Shanghai have produced preclinical work that showed the highest combined subcutaneous bioavailability, potency and blood half-life of any cytokine biologic RA treatment, the company said in a release.

The company said the aim is for a once-a-month regimen of the candidate for which it secured global in-licensed rights from ArGEN-X of Belgium in 2012. It subsequently partnered with Genor BioPharma of Shanghai, the mAb division of China's Walvax Group, to develop the drug for China.

"Genor has provided IND enablement and manufacturing process development to support rest of world development, where RuiYi has retained all commercial rights," RuiYi said in the release.

In May of last year, RuiYi announced a successful effort to raise $15 million in venture cash to develop novel drugs in China, tapping an investor syndicate that includes 5AM Ventures, Versant Ventures, Aravis SA and Apposite Capital, plus the investment arms of GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Merck KGaA to put together its second fundraiser.

At the time, RuiYi said it was developing a spate of preclinical drugs that target G-protein coupled receptors, and the company believes its proprietary discovery platform will give it a fresh supply of targets for years to come. That included RYI-008, an interleukin-6 blocker with potential in autoimmune disease and cancer, the company said in May 2014.

In the most recent release, RuiYi said results of the trial are expected to be available in the first quarter of 2016 and support advancing gerilimzumab into a number of trials, "including in moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis."

- here's the release