Charles River and Rznomics pair up on gene therapy development, Chinese CDMO lands $220m Series C funding

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ALotOfPeople
© GettyImages/ALotOfPeople

Related tags: Charles river, GenScript, Gene therapy

Charles River Laboratories International, Inc and Rznomics Inc, a South Korea-based biopharmaceutical company specialized in the development of RNA-based gene therapeutics, have established a viral vector contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) partnership.

The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Rznomics will leverage Charles River’s viral vector CDMO experience to initiate clinical development of its RNA-based anticancer gene therapy in liver cancer patients.

“A reliable and experienced manufacturing partner is of utmost importance, and we are keen to continue building this relationship to enable us to bring our leading pipeline, RZ-001, into clinical development,”​ commented Seong-wook Lee, CEO of Rznomics.

Z-001 is the first ribozyme-based RNA reprogramming approach approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for evaluation in patients. The treatment was developed utilizing Rznomics’ proprietary RNA reprogramming and editing technology and takes the form of an adenoviral vector that expresses an hTERT targeting ribozyme to treat hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients, the most common type of primary liver cancer.

Rznomics received Phase I/IIa IND approval for the gene therapy from the FDA in October last year, allowing the initiation of an international clinical study in HCC patients.

Early-phase trials have also commenced in Korea following IND approval for RZ-001 from the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) in June 2022.

Chinese CROs and CDMOS forecast to grow market share 

In terms of recent progress made by other globally focused CDMOs, GenScript ProBio reports that its Series C round raised financing of nearly US€220m.

The round was led by Legend Capital, investors focusing on the early-stage and growth-stage opportunities in China. Several active healthcare investment institutions also participated in the capital raising, while the parent company of the biologics CDMO, Genscript Biotech Corporation, invested about US$30m in the asset as well.

Weihui Shao, the rotating CEO of GenScript Biotech, outlined how the CDMO has been growing rapidly, helping pharmaceutical and biotech companies around the globe to progress their pipelines, and attracting top-tier healthcare investors. “Through this round of financing, GenScript ProBio will be better positioned to participate in the commercialization process of global biologics and gene and cell therapy.”

Jafar Wang, co-chief investment officer at Legend Capital, said the VC firm was highly optimistic about the global competitiveness of Chinese CRO/CDMO players: “Even in a complex international environment, China’s leading CRO/CDMO companies still have the opportunity to provide quality services to international customers and win significant market share.”

GenScript ProBio offers end-to-end biologics along with cell and gene therapy CDMO services based on its extensive experiences in drug discovery, process development and GMP manufacture. It has participated in over 60 CMC projects worldwide and over 20 IND filings. 

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