AstraZeneca to Create Independent Biotech Spin-Off

The pharma major will spin out six molecules in early stage inflammation and autoimmune programs into a new company called Viela Bio.
Mar 06, 2018
By BioPharm International Editors

On Feb. 28, 2018, AstraZeneca announced that its global biologics research and development arm, MedImmune, is spinning out six molecules from its early stage inflammation and autoimmune programs into an independent biotech company. The new company, named Viela Bio, will focus on developing medicines for severe autoimmune diseases by targeting the underlying causes of each disease.  

The six molecules include three clinical and three pre-clinical potential new medicines, contributed by MedImmune. Included in the spin-out will be the monoclonal antibody (mAb), inebilizumab, which is currently in Phase II trial development for treating neuromyelitis optica, a rare condition that affects the optic nerve and spinal cord in approximately five in 100,000 people. The mAb was granted orphan drug designation by FDA in 2016 and by the European Medicines Agency in 2017.

Bing Yao, currently head of MedImmune's Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmunity (RIA) Innovative Medicines unit, has been named CEO at Viela Bio. Jorn Drappa, currently vice president of RIA Clinical Development at MedImmune, has been appointed head of Research & Development and CMO at the new company.

"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, in a company press release.

"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," Bing Yao, CEO, Viela Bio, added in the release.

In addition to inebilizumab, other potential new medicines in clinical development that will be part of the new company include MEDI4920, an anti-CD40L-Tn3 fusion protein in Phase I development for treating primary Sjögren's syndrome, a chronic rheumatic disorder, and MEDI7734, an anti-ILT7 mAb in Phase I development for treating myositis (muscle inflammation).

The transaction does not include anifrolumab, a late-stage Phase III mAb in development by AstraZeneca for treating lupus, a chronic, severe autoimmune disease.

Viela Bio will be based in Gaithersburg, MD. 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 the new company.

Source: AstraZeneca

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