AstraZeneca has spun off six pipeline candidates being developed by its MedImmune subsidiary into a new company that said today it will be funded with $250 million and focus on severe autoimmune diseases.
Viela Bio said it has incorporated as an independent inflammation- and autoimmunity-focused biotechnology company. MedImmune will contribute three clinical and three preclinical potential new medicines to the new company, including inebilizumab, currently in Phase II development.
Inebilizumab—which has received Orphan Drug Designation from the FDA and the European Medicines Agency—is being evaluated for the treatment of neuromyelitis optica, a rare condition that affects the optic nerve and spinal cord in approximately five in 100,000 people.
Also in Viela Bio’s pipeline are two Phase I candidates: MEDI4920, an anti-CD40L-Tn3 fusion protein indicated for primary Sjögren’s syndrome; and MEDI7734, an anti-ILT7 monoclonal antibody indicated for myositis.
Bing Yao, Ph.D., formerly head of MedImmune's respiratory, inflammation, and autoimmunity innovative medicines unit, will be Viela’s first CEO, the company said.
“We are launching Viela Bio with a strong investor backing and a very robust pipeline with multiple novel molecules in inflammation and autoimmunity,” Dr. Yao said in a statement. “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.”
Joining Dr. Yao at Viela Bio will be Jörn Drappa, M.D., Ph.D., who will be head of R&D and CMO. He was previously VP of respiratory, inflammation, and autoimmunity clinical development at MedImmune.
Viela Bio will start out with $250 million in capital raised by investors led by Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, and Hillhouse Capital, with participation by Temasek and Sirona Capital. Viela said it will use the proceeds from the initial financing to deliver a Phase II study of inebilizumab, efficiently develop the early-stage portfolio, and continue exploring existing and novel pathways for next-generation inflammation and autoimmune therapy.
AstraZeneca will remain the largest minority shareholder of Viela Bio, which like MedImmune will be based in Gaithersburg, MD.
“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,” added Bahija Jallal, Ph.D., president of MedImmune and EVP of AstraZeneca.
MedImmune’s three core therapeutic areas are oncology; respiratory, inflammation, and autoimmunity; and cardiovascular and metabolic disease.