Over the past 5 years KBP Biosciences has been steadily growing up its pipeline of new drugs from its base in China. But this morning the biotech company is unveiling a dramatic change of scene, with plans to set up a global headquarters in Philadelphia while taking the wraps off a $76 million venture round that will give its new American CEO the cash to make a splash at the FDA.
The new CEO is Brian McVeigh, a 25-year veteran of GlaxoSmithKline, where until very recently he headed up the global business development team inside the pharma giant’s extensive Philly hub. McVeigh tells me he plans to put that BD experience to work for KBP.
“This is the first company I’ve ever come across which has a truly significant pipeline but is also just closing the Series A,” McVeigh tells me.
That’s because Zhen Hua Huang in Jinan, China built the novel drug platform for this company, spinning it out of a generics company he had built and sold. Now KBP has three clinical programs and a set of preclinical efforts with a staff of about 50 currently. McVeigh is building the C-suite in the US, and he’ll be the point person for leading development efforts for the US market.
The immediate focus is on a Phase IIb-ready cardio drug dubbed KBP-5074.
The drugs are coming from China, and so is most — though not all — of the new money.
Advantech Capital and China’s state-backed SDIC Venture Capital led the round, with contributions from Sangel Capital, Ping An Ventures, Bay City Capital GF XINDE Life Science Investment Fund, Efung Capital, CASH Capital, Cowin Capital Group, Korea Investment Partners and Elite Capital.
It’s an unusual move in many ways. China has seen a host of startups come on strong, often pursuing a strategy of in-licensing late-stage or marketed drugs from the US. This biotech is building drugs from the ground up, with a worldwide strategy and enough cash to see if it can work.
“I look at China as it’s finally here; there’s true innovation coming from China,” says the CEO. And recent changes in China’s regulatory approach — speeding up reviews and allowing companies like KBP to use US data to gain Chinese approvals — positions the country to leapfrog the US drug market in the future.
McVeigh wanted in on the ground floor of that trend.