BEIJING – Androgen receptor (AR)-related disease specialist Kintor Pharmaceutical Ltd., of Suzhou, China, raised $240 million on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) on May 22 by issuing 92.3 million shares at HK$20.15 apiece. The IPO was oversubscribed by 551 times, showing the city’s biotech fever.
Kintor’s IPO is the fourth pre-revenue biotech IPO to be significantly oversubscribed since December, following Akeso Inc., Innocare Pharma Ltd. and Alphamab Oncology Co. Ltd., which saw oversubscription rates between 192.1 and 639.2 times. Kintor’s share price closed at HK$21.5 by the end of Friday, up 6.7% from its offer price.
Kintor differs itself from other biotech competitors by strategically focusing on AR-related diseases with substantial unmet medical needs. Kintor’s chief financial officer, Lucy Lu, explained to BioWorld that the company first turned its attention to prostate cancer and identified AR as the most promising target to treat that indication, then developed more AR-targeting drug candidates on that basis.
As previously reported, Kintor plans to use almost half of the proceeds to develop and commercialize its lead product, proxalutamide, a second-generation AR antagonist for treating prostate cancer. Around one-quarter of the proceeds will go to its second core candidate, pyrilutamide, a topical AR antagonist for treating androgenetic alopecia. Kintor said the drug candidates have best- and first-in-class potential, respectively.
Another candidate, which is still in preclinical development, is an AR degrader for treating prostate cancer and AR-related diseases.
For proxalutamide, clinical results showed its potential efficacy in prostate cancer patients who have not succeeded with marketed AR-targeting drugs Xtandi (enzalutamide, Astellas Pharma Inc.) and Zytiga (abiraterone, Johnson & Johnson). There was also no incidence of proxalutamide triggering seizures, as is the case with other existing AR inhibitors. An accelerated NDA for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer in China is expected this year to help the company start making profits.
Moving toward first-in-class and early discovery
Kintor had a safer start by developing the potential best-in-class proxalutamide, but Kintor CEO Youzhi Tong told BioWorld the company moved toward the higher-risk first-in-class drug candidates shortly after.
“Once you’ve started, you can extend your research to more areas. Based on the proxalutamide study, we found pyrilutamide, which is a first-in-class candidate,” he said. “Then, as we expanded proxalutamide into breast cancer, we might have a first-in-class compound for this indication.”
The core strength of Kintor, Tong said, is its solid internal R&D capabilities, which will remain the key to maintaining its competitiveness.
“If you want to do first-in-class, you should identify new targets or new pathways for a disease,” he said. “You should cooperate with more academic organizations, then take the candidates into in-house development. I think that’s where we will build a stronger team.”
More to add and better utilization of resources
Kintor is also eyeing targets beyond AR. Included in its pipeline are angiogenesis inhibitor ALK-1 for hepatocellular carcinoma and liver cancer, mTOR kinase inhibitor detorsertib for metastatic solid tumors, and hedgehog/SMO inhibitor GT-1708F for leukemia and basal cell carcinoma, all in clinical-stage development.
“We focus on oncology. After the IPO, we will continue our work in this direction,” CFO Lu told BioWorld. “We don’t have to limit ourselves to the AR-related cancers.”
Another strategy Lu mentioned is to utilize the company’s commercial resources when considering what else to add to its pipeline.
“Since prostatic cancer is actually in the urology sector, we will also consider other first-in-class or best-in-class candidates in urology. So, when we promote proxalutamide to the urology physicians, we can also promote other urological drugs,” she explained. “So, you see, we can focus on the current indications and also our current hospital coverage.”
A robust IPO pipeline
The flow of new offerings from pre-revenue biotech players has been steady in Hong Kong despite the market downturn. Since the beginning of this year, the HKEX has welcomed four pre-revenue biotech/med-tech companies that have raised $1.163 billion altogether, with two more IPOs pending approval. Since April 2018, the city has seen 18 pre-revenue biotech/med-tech IPOs.
Although the Nasdaq and Shanghai’s STAR board also approves listings by pre-revenue players, Hong Kong still retains its status as the preferred listing destination for Chinese biotech companies due to its “East meets West” environment.
“Hong Kong has several strengths,” said Lu. “Hong Kong has a bilingual disclosure system so you can engage international health care specialists as well as domestic Chinese investors.” She added that Hong Kong is an international hub for not only the China-focused investors, but also those who look abroad.
For Kintor, Lu said being HKEX-listed means better branding for the company, and the bilingual disclosure requirement will help it reach both the China and global markets.
“Given the specialty of Hong Kong, even under the current tension between the U.S. and China, Hong Kong will continue to maintain a very competitive landscape in the next few years,” she said.