Heavyweight Chinese consortium buys San Diego-based Ambrx

Ambrx CEO Lawson Macartney

A heavyweight consortium of Chinese biomedical- and healthcare-focused funds said it would acquire San Diego-based biotech Ambrx, which abandoned an initial public offering last year, in a deal that opens a path to cutting-edge candidates in oncology therapies.

China Everbright's healthcare fund, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, HOPU Investments and WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) announced the deal without providing financial details and said they expect it to close in the second quarter of 2015.

Shanghai Fosun shares jumped around 9% on the Shanghai exchange on the news of the deal for a company that focuses on developing antibody-drug conjugates to treat solid tumors and other diseases.

In June last year, Ambrx, a 2005 Fierce 15 honoree, abandoned plans to raise as much as $86 million in an IPO. One of the consortium members, WuXi PharmaTech, China's largest CRO, has announced plans for a management-led effort to go private that is pending, while at the same time it is involved in a host of projects and dealmaking.

Fosun Pharma, while not as active recently as U.S.-listed WuXi, has been in stem cell therapeutic research areas the presence of the capital firms in the deal likely will catch the attention of venture firms in the U.S.

"This joint acquisition will result in great synergy with Fosun Pharma's current R&D system and platform. Fosun Pharma has an internationalized R&D deployment in place with strong R&D capability," said Chen Qiyu, chairman of Fosun Pharma.

Ambrx's pipeline includes ARX788, a site-specific ADC targeting Her2-positive breast cancer slated for clinical trials this year.

The company has also worked with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Merck ($MRK), Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Agensys.

Its leading candidate is ARX618, a long-acting fibroblast growth factor 21 for Type 2 diabetes, for which collaboration partner Bristol-Myers Squibb is conducting Phase II clinical trials in the United States.

HOPU Investments has previously focused mainly on China opportunities, while Everbright has also worked to bridge potential China-U.S. opportunities.

BMO Capital Markets is acting as exclusive financial adviser, according to the press release, while Latham & Watkins is acting as legal adviser to Ambrx.

- here's the release

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