A drug development company has raised $76 million from investors in China, the United States, and Korea to move its headquarters to the Philadelphia area from Jinan, China, and bring treatments developed by China-based scientists through U.S. clinical testing to patients here.
The company, KBP Biosciences, founded in 2011 by veteran drug developer Dr. Zhen Hua Huang, also plans to announce Friday that it has hired Brian P. McVeigh, a former R&D portfolio manager at UK-based pharma giant GSK, where he started as a college intern, as KBP Biosciences' new chief executive officer.
Though he's done pharmaceutical deals across Europe and the U.S., McVeigh is so Philly-centric that he has attended four of the Big Five universities, earning his accounting degree from La Salle, his MBA from Villanova, and taking professional classes at St. Joseph's and the University of Pennsylvania.
"It's my personal and professional mission to grow and elevate the biotech community in our region," he told me. "I believe strongly in the quality of research coming out of our universities, and the incredible talent in our pharmaceutical workforce." He recently stepped down from the board of Life Sciences Pennsylvania, formerly Pennsylvania BIO.
So the new company's CEO mission "suits my personal growth ambitions and really helps with my broader mission of raising the profile of this region," McVeigh said.
The financing is led by two China-based firms: Advantech Capital, founded by Harvard-trained cell biologist-turned investor Jianming Yu, which last year helped raise more than $500 million for facial-recognition and artificial-intelligence developer SenseTime; and SDIC Venture Capital, an arm of China's government-backed State Development Investment Corp.
Also investing were six other China-based venture capital firms, plus California-based drug investor Bay City Capital and Korea Investment Partners.
The investment cash will fund the hiring of staff and the opening of a corporate headquarters at an undetermined site in the Philadelphia area, plus U.S. clinical trials of KBP's leading drug candidates.
Those include FDA-registered KBP-5074, for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension in kidney-disease patients; to be followed by KBP-7072, for antibiotic-resistant infections, including the MRSA flesh-eating bacteria (the drug is on an FDA fast-track list), and KBP-7026, for respiratory troubles.
In a statement, Huang, KBP's chairman, praised McVeigh's "leadership skills and experience" closing pharma deals with GSK partners, and his "track record for delivery," adding those skills will help "grow KBP into a global company."
KBP has "an impressive small-molecule library and bacteria collection" which will help attract U.S. drug companies as partners to bring the new treatments to market, Advantech partner Benjamin Yumin Qiu added.
The investment should "support the advancement of China's domestic innovation and broaden its role in the global health-care market," added Jianping Tang, head of the healthcare team at SDIC, the government-backed investment group.
McVeigh told me it's too early to predict how many people the company will hire here."We have a very prolific 50-person preclinical development team in China that has created a pipeline of products — innovative, new chemical entities that treat unmet needs," he said.
He will add Philadelphia-based management, marketing, and testing talent, drawn from the region's deep pharmaceutical bench, "to drive development and commercialization and, importantly, to develop partnerships" for sales and distribution. He'll be telling KBP's story at JPMorgan's drug investment conference in California next week.
China-based gene therapy researchers have worked closely with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and other area institutions. China-based drug development group WuXi bases its U.S. clinical research organization in a complex at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. WuXi does work for KPB in China, McVeigh noted. KBP owners "have confidence that we have talent to build these teams here," he concluded.