Dr. Yao-Chang Xu, Founder and CEO
For the most part, drug discovery in China have always relied on traditional pharmacochemical approaches such as bioisosterism, scaffold hopping, etc. The result? Intricate drug development endeavors have suffered from the lack of quality and innovation, substantial time delays, and inefficient data usage throughout the process. However, since the implementation of the ‘National Key New Drug Creation Programme’ (2008), China’s biopharmaceutical sector has been going through a ‘Cambrian Explosion.’
In order to provide more purposeful drug design approaches, there is now an increase in the interdisciplinary teamwork at the intersection of medicinal chemistry, informatics, biology, and multiple techniques. But, it is essential to note that only implementing such multidisciplinary strategies alone is not sufficient for the Chinese biopharma industry to rise above its long-standing status quo. Every pharmaceutical company has to have a broader understanding of a myriad of health concerns, as well as cultivate an unabashed interest in innovation. Only then can these entities offer contemporary and cutting-edge drug development processes and eventually determine the future course of drug discovery.
At this juncture, the biopharma company that is successfully replicating the aforementioned approach and leading this wave of drug discovery initiatives from the front is Abbisko Therapeutics. Founded by Dr. Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko leverages its founding members’ rich research and managerial experience from top global and Chinese pharmaceutical companies to discover and develop innovative medicines. “We bring world-class, state-of-the-art biotechnological approaches to the Chinese pharmaceutical industry,” underscores Dr. Xu, founder and CEO of Abbisko.
The journey of Abbisko as a best-of-breed drug development company, interestingly, is also the chronicle of Dr. Xu’s personal journey, from China to the U.S., and back to his home country. After his post-doctoral fellowship, Dr. Xu joined Eli Lilly and Company—one of the leading global pharmaceutical companies.
While working at Eli Lilly, Dr. Xu persuaded the senior management to establish the connection with pharmaceutical R&D outsourcing companies in China. The project’s success, notably, kindled the CRO industry’s rise in China’s pharmaceutical field. Soon, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis approached Dr. Xu for a similar project—the company was looking to set up their R&D center in China. From the initial site selection and team formation to the establishment and promotion of new projects, Dr. Xu helped Novartis build an excellent R&D talent team over the next five years. “I made another move around this time. I decided to work for Hansoh Pharma, a Chinese pharmaceutical company focused on generic medicine,” recalls Dr. Xu. As the Senior Vice President of Hansoh and founding head of its R&D department, Dr. Xu helped establish an R&D team and created a rich drug development pipeline for innovative medicines.
We bring world-class, state-of-the-art biotechnological approaches to the Chinese pharmaceutical industry
The experiences of working with both global and domestic pharmaceutical companies also made Dr. Xu realize the gap between China’s pharmaceutical R&D and the international market demands. “What the Chinese pharmaceutical industry needed were an innovative outlook and a broader mindset,” opines Dr. Xu. Against the backdrop of this understanding, Dr. Xu and his colleagues built Abbisko from the ground up to deal with the Chinese biopharma sector’s persisting problems. Today, Abbisko stands on the firm shoulders of its three co-founders—Dr. Xu, Dr. Hongping Yu, and Dr. Zhui Chen. Through Abbisko, the trio focuses on novel and high-potential targets to develop first-in-class or best-in-class molecular entities and has built up an extensive pipeline in target-based therapy and immune-oncology. Dr. Xu elucidates, “It is necessary to go against the trend and develop a new generation of small molecule targeted drugs based on oncogenic pathways and the tumor immune system, ensuring a better quality of life for patients.”
For this, Abbisko is laser-focused at maintaining the three core tenets of the biopharma space: (Q)uality – (S)peed – (V)alue. The CEO explains that while competing against multinational biopharma companies, quality and speed play the most crucial roles. Patients are likely to opt for medicine because of the overall quality it offers. Similarly, speed determines which pharma company brings a drug faster to market and alleviate individual health concerns. These two factors, together, not only ensure the wellbeing of patients but also move Abbisko forward on a positive revenue curve. And in terms of value, the company always strives to push the horizon of patient satisfaction.
Such proven and extensive capabilities have undoubtedly made Abbisko a leading name in the Chinese biopharmaceutical market. Since its inception, Abbisko has advanced two internally discovered small molecule drug candidates into the clinical stage with ongoing trials in the U.S., mainland China, and Taiwan. The company has additionally built up an extensive discovery pipeline in oncology areas consisting of multiple candidates at the IND (Investigational New Drug) enabling stage. Abbisko has also completed two strategic collaborations to strengthen its portfolios by in-licensing two clinical-stage assets from X4 Therapeutics and AstraZeneca PLC.
Building on these early successes, Abbisko is now poised to continue ahead in its mission of discovering and developing innovative medicines. The company is particularly working on enhancing its in-house drug molecules while also collaborating with more prominent pharmaceutical companies. “We are now poised to add more momentum to the burst of true, breakthrough innovation in the Chinese biopharma space,” concludes Dr. Xu.