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AstraZeneca creates biotech spin-off, $250m in bank

Published on 28/02/18 at 09:49am

Biotechs created from big pharma companies tend to have an easier start to life than most, and this is definitely the case for Viela Bio.

Viela will emerge with six drug candidates, including one drug in Phase 2 development, and $250 million in funds.

The candidates will be carried over from MedImmune’s portfolio and mainly focus on inflammation and autoimmunity, allowing AstraZeneca to once again re-focus its efforts into its key therapeutic areas.

Of the biotech’s current portfolio, three are clinical and three are pre-clinical compounds; its lead drug is inebilizumab, which has already received Orphan Drug Designation from the FDA and the EMA.

The treatment is being tested for neuromyelitis optica – a rare disease that affects the optic nerve and spinal cord.

The biotech will be led by Bing Yao, who assumes the position of Chief Executive and, until the formation of Viela, was Head of Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity at Medimmune.

“We are launching Viela Bio with a strong investor backing and a very robust pipeline with multiple novel molecules in inflammation and autoimmunity,” said Yao. “This is combined with a strong, expanding team that has in-depth scientific and clinical development expertise, and the ability to bring important, innovative medicines to patients.”

Alongside Yao, he will be joined by Jorn Drappa, previously Vice President of Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity at MedImmune.

Further than this, MedImmune revealed that a select number of people had been offered the transition to the biotech, should they choose to make the move.

The biotech’s first step will be to use the $250 million in funds raised to develop inebilizumab through the clinic.

Viela was backed by Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, and Hillhouse Capital, along with Temasek and Sirona Capital. AstraZeneca will remain the largest minority shareholder of Viela Bio.

There is one autoimmune that AZ is not handing over to the biotech, which is anifrolumab, a treatment for lupus – suggesting that the company has particularly high hopes for the treatment.

Ben Hargreaves

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