AstraZeneca’s global biologics research and development arm, MedImmune, is spinning out six molecules from its early-stage inflammation and autoimmunity programmes into an independent biotech company, Viela Bio.
The new company will focus on developing medicines for severe autoimmune diseases by targeting the underlying causes of each disease.
MedImmune will contribute three clinical and three pre-clinical potential new medicines. This includes inebilizumab, currently in Phase II trial development for the treatment of neuromyelitis optica, a rare condition that affects the optic nerve and spinal cord in approximately five in 100 000 people. It was granted Orphan Drug Designation by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2016 and by the European Medicines Agency in 2017.
“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,” said Bahija Jallal, President of MedImmune and Executive Vice President of AstraZeneca.
Bing Yao, currently Head of MedImmune’s Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmunity (RIA) Innovative Medicines unit, has been named as Chief Executive Officer at Viela Bio. Jorn Drappa, currently Vice President of RIA Clinical Development at MedImmune, has been appointed Head of Research & Development and Chief Medical Officer at Viela Bio.
“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,” said Bing Yao, Chief Executive Officer, Viela Bio.
Based in Gaithersburg
Viela Bio will be based in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It will be funded with up to $250 million from a consortium of investors led by Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, and Hillhouse Capital. AstraZeneca will remain the largest minority shareholder of Viela Bio.
The transaction does not include anifrolumab, in late-stage Phase III development by AstraZeneca for the treatment of lupus, a chronic, severe autoimmune disease.