Commercial AstraZeneca Joins Hands With New Chinese Biotech to Work...

AstraZeneca Joins Hands With New Chinese Biotech to Work on Hypercholesterolemia

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AstraZeneca is partnering up with a self-identified “young” Chinese company to collaborate on new medications to treat hypercholesterolemia, just nine months after abandoning an Ionis-partnered hypercholesterolemia investment.

Under the terms of the three-year contract, the British Big Pharma will make an initial payment of an undisclosed amount to Cholesgen, which is based in Shanghai. This payment will enable Cholesgen to explore first-in-class targets and methods to treat hypercholesterolemia and associated metabolic illnesses, which were initially identified by the Chinese researchers working for the biotech company.

In addition, Cholesgen will be eligible for additional payments based on an agreed-upon but unpublished license package for each and every candidate that AstraZeneca chooses to bring into the clinic.

Cholesgen’s early stage portfolios will be prioritized as the companies draw on each other’s strengths to zero in on specific targets.

Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca’s R&D executive VP, stated, “This is an important collaboration for AstraZeneca, led by deep scientific expertise and a shared ambition to address the key drivers that contribute to hypercholesterolemia and related metabolic diseases. We look forward to working together to accelerate target discovery and preclinical research in this area of high unmet need.”

Bao-Liang Song, a distinguished researcher in the field of cholesterol metabolism, established Cholesgen in 2021. The biotechnology startup successfully completed a series A funding round the previous week, bringing in a total of $14 million. One of the backers in this round was the AZ-CICC Medical vehicle, which is a joint investment fund established by AstraZeneca and the finance group China International Capital Corporation Limited.

Song, who serves as the chair of the biotech company, referred to the organization as a young biotech with a solid grasp of target biology and an organized pipeline.

AstraZeneca had another potential treatment for hypercholesterolemia in the form of ION449. This one was developed in partnership with Ionis. In September 2022, the antisense therapy successfully reduced low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in a phase 2b clinical trial, which was the trial’s primary aim. However, considering that these results did not meet AstraZeneca’s effectiveness criteria, the company decided against taking the candidate into phase 3 of the testing process.

Basically, ASCVD is a degenerative process that occurs in the coronary, femoral, cerebral, iliac and aortic arteries. It is a contributor to coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). It starts in childhood in the intima of the major elastic and muscular vessels with deposits of lipids, primarily cholesterol and its ester compounds, in macrophages and soft muscle cells.

ASCVD is strongly linked to elevated blood cholesterol levels. Even though there have been improvements in preventative measures in recent years, ASCVD still ranks as one of the top causes of death worldwide.

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