On February 23rd, Chengdu-based Clover Biopharmaceuticals announced the completion of an oversubscribed Series C funding round of $230 million. The funds will be directed mainly for the pipeline expansion on the protein-based vaccines and biologic cancer therapies by its innovative proprietary Trimer-Tag technology platform.
The funding round was co-led by Hillhouse Capital’s venture capital (VC) unit GL Ventures and Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek, and participation from Oceanpine Capital, OrbiMed, and Clover’s pre-existing investor Delos Capital, altogether bringing the total capital to over $400 million (> RMB 2.5 billion) in the past 12 months.
Trimer-Tag is an innovative drug development platform for the production of a novel, covalently-trimerized fusion protein. Trimer-Tag targets many major diseases that are trimerization-dependent or formed by three proteins. Those diseases include the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily and enveloped RNA virus antigens which play a key role in entering host cells. The advantage of Trimer-Tag technology is that it can effectively target previously undruggable pathways with the global IP position to develop recombinant trimerized fusion proteins.
“Our goal has always been to bring our innovative vaccines and biologic therapies to the world by leveraging our proprietary Trimer-Tag© platform technology, state-of-the-art cGMP biomanufacturing capabilities, and passionate team of over 500 scientists, experienced industry professionals and advisors”, said Joshua Liang, Chief Executive Officer and Board Director of Clover.
“We look forward to using the proceeds from this financing round to accelerate the development of our pipeline, expand our in-house R&D and biomanufacturing capabilities, and move closer to our mission of improving the quality of life and wellbeing for patients around the world.”
Plans for the Series C and Other Fundings
Clover plans to initiate a global Phase 2/3 efficacy trial for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate SCB-2019 (S-Trimer), which is expected to start in the first half of 2021. It also plans to initiate potential production for hundreds of millions of vaccine doses this year. Besides the Series C investment, Clover also has financial support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), with a total of $328 million for COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
The Series C funding will also be involved in the development of other vaccine programs such as intracavitary malignancies, rabies, influenza, and multivalent SARS-CoV-2 to cover multiple COVID-19 variants. Among them, the SCB-313 vaccine for intracavitary malignancies is a novel TRAIL-Trimer fusion protein. It has undergone multiple Phase 1 clinical trials in China and Australia and demonstrated encouraging efficacy and promising safety profiles.
Utilizing its Trimer-Tag technology, Clover has developed a trimeric spike protein that resembles that of COVID-19’s. Clover has also added an adjuvant to boost the immune response to its vaccine. Since it is protein-based like vaccines developed for influenza, shingles, and hepatitis B, the production can follow the established manufacturing processes to scale up to large quantities in a short period of time.
The protein-based vaccine has an advantage over Pfizer and BioNTech’s messenger RNA vaccine, as it only requires refrigerator temperatures of two to eight degrees Celsius for long-term storage. Even at room temperature, the vaccines remain stable for at least two months.
Just before the completion of the new financing of Series C, peer-reviewed results from an early-stage test of two Clover COVID-19 vaccine candidates were published in The Lancet earlier this month. The vaccines showed good tolerability and safety among the 150 enrolled participants. They also induced neutralizing antibodies at levels similar or higher than those recovered from COVID-19.
By Judy Ya-Hsuan Lin
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