AstraZeneca Launches New Biopharm Company Viela Bio
AstraZeneca has announced that its global biologics research and development arm, MedImmune, is spinning out six molecules from its early-stage inflammation and autoimmunity programs 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 preclinical potential new medicines. This includes inebilizumab, currently in Phase II development for treating neuromyelitis optica, a rare condition that affects the optic nerve and spinal cord. It was granted Orphan Drug Designation by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2016 and by the European Medicines Agency in 2017.
Bing Yao, PhD, formerly head of MedImmune’s Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmunity Innovative Medicines Unit, has been appointed as Viela’s first chief executive officer. Dr. Yao will be joined by Jorn Drappa, MD, PhD, who was previously vice president of respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity clinical development at MedImmune, and will now be head of research and development and chief medical officer at Viela Bio.
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, Hillhouse Capital, along with Temasek and Sirona Capital. AstraZeneca will remain the largest minority shareholder of Viela Bio.
Viela Bio says it will use the proceeds from the initial financing to deliver the Phase II study of inebilizumab, develop its early-stage portfolio, and continue exploring pathways for inflammation and autoimmune therapy.