MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, is creating a stand-alone company for early-stage inflammation and autoimmunity biologics.
The new independent biotech company, Viela Bio, will get six molecules from MedImmune's early-stage inflammation and autoimmunity programs.
Viela Bio, which will get a funding of up to $250m, will develop drugs for severe autoimmune diseases by targeting the fundamental causes of each disease.
Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, and Hillhouse Capital will lead the investment in the new biotech company with AstraZeneca to remain as its largest minority shareholder.
Viela Bio will be based in Gaithersburg in the US state of Maryland. It will start off with three clinical and three pre-clinical potential new medicines, contributed by MedImmune.
AstraZeneca executive vice president and MedImmune president Bahija Jallal said: “Our goal is always to find a way for the science to advance. By establishing Viela Bio, we are creating an optimal environment for the continued development of our promising early-stage biologics portfolio in inflammation and autoimmunity.
“This has the potential to bring the most benefit to patients and will allow us to maintain focus on our three main therapy areas.”
Included in the list of molecules to be owned by Viela Bio is inebilizumab, which is an anti-CD19 monoclonal antibody. The molecule is currently undergoing a phase 2 trial for the treatment of neuromyelitis optica, a rare condition that affects both the optic nerve and spinal cord in about five in 100,000 people.
Inebilizumab had secured orphan drug designation from both the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
The list of molecules to be owned by Viela Bio does not include anifrolumab, AstraZeneca’s candidate for treating lupus, which currently is in phase 3 development.
Viela Bio CEO Bing Yao said: “Viela Bio shows great potential, launching with a very robust pipeline with multiple novel molecules in inflammation and autoimmunity.
“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.”
Image: MedImmune, Gaithersburg USA. Photo: courtesy of AstraZeneca.