Anji Pharma CEO Brian Hubbard/Courtesy Anji Pharma.
Global medicines company Anji Pharma, named after the Anji Bridge in China’s Hebei Province, is trying to bridge the gap between the two countries in terms of patient access to novel drugs in the metabolic, oncology, neuroscience and infectious disease spaces. And it now has $70 million more to do so.
The Cambridge, Mass. and Shanghai, China-based company announced the Series B funding Tuesday morning, which came solely from CR Capital, a leading cross-border venture capital firm that clearly believes in its mission on all fronts.
Founded in 2018 with an asset-centric business model for efficiency and a mission to bring life-changing, high-potential therapies to patients across the globe, Anji operates with a dynamic licensing model that allows it to capture key historical knowledge to enable better decision making.
“Equity in our program is shared with our licensor, and this allows us to really retain that founding team and incentivize them to actively participate in the program,” Anji Pharma CEO Brian Hubbard, Ph.D. told BioSpace. “What this means is that we can keep the historical knowledge of the program, learning from the ups and downs of the program over the years, things that are typically not captured in a diligence exercise. More importantly, it really keeps the passion in the program from that founding team.”
Anji will use the new funds to advance its two late-stage clinical programs in metabolic disorders.
In June, Anji initiated a Phase III trial of lead asset, ANJ900 (delayed-release metformin) in patients with Type 2 diabetes who have moderate renal impairment. Metformin, which is a mainstay of Type 2 diabetes treatment, is contraindicated in patients who have advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) due to a rare but potentially life-threatening side effect called lactic acidosis. Since evidence has shown that metformin’s glucose-lowering activity is mainly attributed to direct action at the gut wall, ANJ900 is designed for gut-targeted delivery, which allows it to bypass full systemic exposure. Anji expects to have data from this trial in the 2024 timeframe.
A second asset, ANJ908 (Pradigastat), is currently in Phase II clinical trials for the treatment of chronic idiopathic constipation. It targets the underlying pathophysiology of the disease by increasing fecal water content and bowel movement frequency. This study is being run simultaneously in the U.S. and China, and Anji is hoping to have ANJ900 approved in both countries in as similar a timeframe as possible.
“We aim to run our clinical trials in a true global sense, not just in the U.S. and Europe, but also including China in that,” Hubbard said. “Typically, there's a four-to-six year lag between approvals, if not greater, for medications, so we think that this model brings a lot of advantages. It brings medicines to patients faster.”
Hubbard added that Anji has also seen a practical advantage to this model during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The more jurisdictions we reach out to, the more flexible we can be in scaling up or down sites for clinical studies, so our phase II program has been able to stay pretty much on track in the pandemic,” he said.
The Series B infusion will also go toward propelling Anji’s oncology assets into the clinic. These include ANJ810, which selectively blocks the function of MCL1, a protein encoded by the MCL1 gene that is complicit in cancer cell survival and tumor formation, and ANJ114, an inhibitor of the HCK protein, a key survival mechanism for leukemic stem cells.