The Silicon Review
"We aim to provide innovative and differentiated therapies to the patients in China and beyond."
Dr. Yao-Chang Xu, co-founder and CEO of Abbisko Therapeutics, mentioned in his latest interview with The Silicon Review that it was challenging to establish a biotech company in China in the early days as the majority of local pharmaceutical companies were engaged in generic medicine, and few were interested in innovative drug discovery research. In other words, there was a scarcity of reliable partners in the country. On top of that, it wasn’t easy to track down a local investment company to support the startup. Eventually, Abbisko obtained fund from a global investor to kick start its drug discovery research programs.
More importantly, to fill the gap between China and the international pharmaceutical R&D, Dr. Xu and his colleagues, Dr. Hongping Yu and Dr. Zhui Chen, worked tirelessly to bring a noticeable change in the country’s pharmaceutical industry.
“The experiences of working at both global and domestic pharmaceutical companies made me realize the gap between China’s pharmaceutical R&D and the international market demands. Indeed, the Chinese pharmaceutical industry needed an innovative outlook and a broader mindset,” Dr. Xu said.
Abbisko was set up as a biopharmaceutical company by this group of seasoned drug hunters who have experience in research and management working for premiere international and Chinese pharmaceutical companies. They have successful track records of introducing multiple innovative therapeutic drugs to the market and have pioneered China’s modern drug discovery and development in past years.
“In 2016, we built Abbisko from the ground up, focusing on novel and high-potential targets to develop the front-runner molecular entities and have built up an extensive pipeline in target-based therapy and immune-oncology,” he said.
Fast forward to the present day, Abbisko heavily relies on these three musketeers who bring loads of fun to the workplace, besides their world-class drug discovery research expertise. The three have worked in the West across several MNCs (R&D).
“Our fully integrated R&D center is in one of the most vibrant innovation hubs in the world. Internally, we have a world-class research team with strong pharmaceutical experience, deep drug discovery knowledge, and high scientific standard. Besides, we’re surrounded by numerous top CRO, CMO, and clinical contract organizations in this area,” Dr. Yu said.
Abbisko’s mission is to become a leading biopharmaceutical company that discovers and develops novel and differentiated therapies in cancer and beyond, addressing critical unmet needs for patients in China and globally.
“We’re targeting fundamental oncogenic drivers and critical Immuno-oncology nodes,” said Dr. Chen.
A Laser Focus on IO and Precision Oncology Therapies
Abbisko Therapeutics is dedicated to developing precision and immuno-oncology therapies against novel and high potential targets through the development of front-runner molecular entities:
Small molecule immuno-oncology: targeting major tumor immune cell types, such as myeloid-derived suppressor cells, Th17/Tc17 cells, tumor associated macrophages, Treg, and effector T-cells. By covering the major tumor immune cell types, our immuno-oncology assets possess broad combination potential with both internally and externally developed immuno-oncology and/or precision oncology therapies to unlock synergistic anti-tumor efficacy.
“At Abbisko, we are developing a pipeline of next-generation small molecule immune modulators for a variety of immune-oncology targets to improve efficacy, lowering side effects, and combine with first-generation IO and other oncology therapies,” Dr. Chen said.
Small molecule precision oncology: featuring FGFR, EGFR and KRAS inhibitors and newer programs with novel and differentiated potential, being developed for the treatment of multiple types of cancer and other diseases. For key targets with strong validation and significant market potential, our approach is to develop a complementary lineup of drug candidates with different drug property profiles to achieve broad and deep indication coverage.
Factors Contributing to Abbisko’s Rising Success
First and foremost, the Abbisko team has a strong shared vision with a proven track record in drug development. From seasoned experts, who worked for top MNCs (R&D), to management veterans, the company has a high level of subject matter ‘Expertise’.
Secondly, the company’s ‘Integrated Discovery Engine’ is a crucial element driving its success. It covers the whole process from discovery biology to clinical development, forging a comprehensive platform containing target discovery, drug discovery, pharma science, and translational research.
Lastly, Abbisko’s ‘Broad External Collaboration’ with world-renowned academic institutions and leading players has hugely impacted its drug discovery and development program outcomes.
The Leaders Upfront
Dr. Yao-Chang Xu, Co-Founder & CEO:
Dr. Xu has over 30 years of experience in research and development in oncology and other disease areas. Dr. Xu began his career at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada as a postdoctoral researcher in 1988. He then worked at BioChem Pharma Inc., a company engaged in new drug research and development for anti-virus and anti-tumor in the early 1990s. Dr. Xu served as senior organic chemist from October 1993 and subsequently Head of Discovery Chemistry Research until January 2006 at Eli Lilly & Company, a pharmaceutical company engaged in the development of pharmaceutical products for treatment in areas of oncology, diabetes, immunology and neurodegeneration. From January 2006 to March 2012, Dr. Xu served as the executive director at Novartis International AG, a pharmaceutical company principally engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of branded and generic prescription drugs, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), biosimilars and ophthalmic products. From March 2012 to March 2016, Dr. Xu served as the general manager of the Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group Shanghai Research and Development Centre (豪森醫藥集團上海新藥研發中心) of Shanghai Hansoh BioMedical Co., Ltd. (上海翰森生物醫藥科技有限公司), a subsidiary of 江蘇豪森藥業集團有限公司 (“Hansoh”), a pharmaceutical company engaged in the development of pharmaceutical products in areas of anti-tumor, central nervous system and diabetes. During his tenure at Hansoh, Dr. Xu also served as the Chairman of Hengrui-Hansoh new drug discovery Committee (恒瑞-豪森醫藥研發委員會).
Dr. Xu obtained his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Nanjing University in the PRC in July 1982, and his Doctoral degree in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago in the United States in July 1988. He served as an Industrial Alternate Councilor from 2010 to 2012 for American Chemical Society, the Division of Medicinal Chemistry. He also has been an elected member of the Medicinal Chemistry Committee of the Chinese Pharmaceutical Association.
Dr. Hongping Yu, Co-Founder & Senior VP (Chemistry):
Dr. Yu worked as a senior research chemist at the Merck Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research from October 2002 to April 2007, a pharmaceutical company engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines and animal-health products. From April 2007 to February 2012, Dr. Yu served as a Senior Research Investigator I at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research Co., Ltd., a pharmaceutical company engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of branded and generic prescription drugs, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), biosimilars and ophthalmic products. From October 2012 to February 2016, Dr. Yu served as the deputy general manager of medicinal chemistry at Hansoh (Shanghai) Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd (上海翰森生物醫藥科技有限公司) (formerly known as 上海捷森藥物化學科技有限公司).
Dr. Yu obtained his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and his Master’s degree in science from Tsinghua University in the PRC in July 1991 and March 1994, respectively. He obtained his Doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of British Columbia in Canada in November 2000 and was a postdoctoral research fellow at that university between July 2001 and September 2002.
Dr. Zhui Chen, Co-Founder & Senior VP (Biology):
Prior to joining the private healthcare sector, Dr. Chen worked at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the United States. After that, Dr. Chen worked as a senior scientist at Abbott Laboratories in the United States and later as a Research Investigator at China Novartis Institutes of Biological Research. From February 2014 to May 2016, he served as an associate director in oncology research for Johnson & Johnson.
Dr. Chen obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of Texas in the United States. He obtained his Doctoral degree from Duke University in the United States. He has been a member of the American Association of Cancer Research since 2007.