By Shannon Ellis
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
SHANGHAI 每 Chinese vaccine developer Cansino Inc., of Tianjin, has received $65 million in a
financing round led by Future Industry Investment Fund to hasten the development of its
later-stage vaccines and get a new vaccine plant up-and-running.
"We are in the process of transforming from an R&D-only organization to one with manufacturing
capabilities. We are finishing our manufacturing plant, hiring people for different functions and
running a lot of clinical trials," Xuefeng Yu, chairmanand CEO, told BioWorld Today. With no
products on the market yet, "the burn rate is pretty high," he said.
Cansino is aiming to develop vaccines for both China and global markets. Currently, China has
few vaccine makers that meet global standards, with only two China-made vaccines obtaining
prequalification status from the World Health Organization (WHO): a Japanese encephalitis
vaccine from the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products Co. Ltd. (CIBP) and flu vaccine
made by Hualan Biological Engineering. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 21, 2013.)
"If our products are able to obtain CFDA approval, we will seek WHO prequalification. We built
our manufacturing facility to be in compliance with WHO prequalification guidelines," said Yu.
Cansino has 10 vaccines in its pipeline, four of which are in clinical trials. Farthest along is an Ebola
vaccine 每 Ad5-Ebov, developed in partnership with the Beijing Institute of Bioengineering 每 which
uses a recombinant adenovirus Cansino in-licensed for its tuberculosis (TB) vaccine from McMaster
University of Hamilton, Ontario.
The TB vaccine and Ebola vaccine are Cansino's more novel offerings. The TB vaccine is in early
stage clinical trials in Canada and is delivered by an inhaler, instead of an injection. This vaccine
is aiming for developing markets that have a sizable TB incidence rate, such as China, which has
800,000 to 900,000 new TB cases a year.
Cansino's Ebola vaccine, which was tested in Sierra Leone and the first Chinese vaccine to enter
clinical trials abroad, is a possible candidate for stockpiling under the WHO Ebola strategy or by
the Chinese government said Yu. While it is unlikely to earn Cansino sizable revenues, Yu said
continuing to develop the Ebola vaccine is an important social responsibility. (See BioWorld
Today, Dec. 24, 2014, and Oct. 21, 2015.)
The second lead candidate is a meningococcal conjugate vaccine. It has two candidates in phase
II trials, a four-valent meningococcal (Groups A, C, Y and W-135) conjugate vaccine (MCV4) and
bivalent meningococcal (Group AC) conjugate vaccine (MCV2).
Cansino is also developing a protein-based pneumococcal vaccine (PBPV) that contains common
antigens found in the 90 serotypes that cause a pneumococcal infection. In China, Cansino will
face Pfizer Inc.'s blockbuster Prevnar 13, a pneumococcal vaccine containing 13 of the most
common types of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, that was approved in China last fall.
(See BioWorld Today, Nov. 9, 2016.)
MONEY FLOWS UNDER CHINA MANUFACTURING 2025
Cansino's lead investor in this $65 million round is the Future Industry Investment Fund (FIIF),
a private equity fund under SDIC Fund Management Corp. Ltd., a subsidiary of the State
Development & Investment Corp., one of the largest investment holding companies in China.
Although FIIF is mandated to make investments that are commercially sound, it must balance
this with its obligations to fulfill Chinese policy objectives. FIIF is a part of China Manufacturing
2025, a government policy to make China an advanced manufacturing superpower in the
coming decades, with $60 billion in projects already announced. Biopharma is one of the 10
priority industries under China Manufacturing 2025.
FIIF has been behind two of the largest Chinese biotech investment rounds in the last six months.
They were lead investors in Suzhou-based Innovent Biologic's $260 million financing and
Taizhou-based Ascentage Pharma Group's $72 million series B round. (See BioWorld Today,
Nov. 29, 2016, and Jan. 4, 2017.)
"SDIC Fund focuses on investing in advanced manufacturing technologies. Our mission is to
promote the transformation of Chinese industries," said Dazhong Lv, managing director of
SDIC in a statement.
Other investors in Cansino included Gopher Asset, Fortune Capital and Goldstone Investment.
Also participating in this round are Cansino's existing investors including Lilly Asia Venture and
Qiming Venture Partners.
Since its founding eight years ago, Cansino has announced three rounds of funding: $10
million in early stage financing led by Lilly Asia Ventures and $30 million in a B round led by
Qiming Ventures with Lilly Asia joining. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 2, 2013, and Nov. 4, 2015.)
The vaccine maker recently became incorporated under the name Cansino Biologics Inc.
(formerly known as Tianjin Cansino Biotechnology Inc.) in preparation for a future public
offering. The company is making plans with the expectation that its lead candidates will gain
CFDA approval in the coming two to three years and earn revenues, enabling Cansino to
list on a Chinese stock exchange.
Almost one year ago, China was rocked by a vaccine distribution scandal that involved the
sale of illegal and expired category two vaccines (those for private purchase that are not
part of the government-run expanded immunization program). The scare raised concerns
about the quality of China-made vaccinations and prompted parents who could afford it to
buy imported ones. (See BioWorld Today, April 6, 2016.)
Prison sentences followed for the director of the CFDA drug testing center and the mother-
daughter team responsible for distributing the fraudulent vaccines. China has taken
numerous steps to tighten control over distribution, which has led to shortages of some
crucial category two vaccines 每 such as the rabies shot 每 in some cities. But the overhaul
of the system is expected to improve safety and be good for the industry in the long run.
(See BioWorld Today, Jan. 18, 2017.)
China's vaccine makers produce millions of doses each year, and while safety is seldom an
issue manufacturing process issues remain that lead to immunizations with suboptimal
potency and weak efficacy.
Back in 2013, when China received the first WHO prequalification there was talk that many
more Chinese vaccine makers would upgrade their manufacturing, enabling them to enter
global markets. This has yet to materialize in part because the Chinese vaccine industry
has been protected from the full pressure of outside competition with vaccines being
considered a public health matter concerning national security.
The recent draft CFDA regulations that proposed making it easier for foreign firms to
conduct multi-regional clinical trials in China and bring innovative drugs to market
quicker are unlikely to be applied to vaccines. Most of the recent CFDA guidelines
contain a clause excluding preventative biologic products.