Viela Bio announced that it had spun out of MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), with $250 million in Series A funding and six developmental autoimmune disease molecules. The consortium of investors was led by Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital and Hillhouse Capital, with participation from Temasek and Sirona Capital. AstraZeneca remains Viela Bio’s largest minority shareholder, and Bing Yao, PhD, formerly Head of MedImmune’s Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmunity Innovative Medicines unit, becomes Viela Bio’s first Chief Executive Officer.
Viela Bio will focus on developing treatments for severe autoimmune diseases by targeting critical pathways that are the root cause of disease. MedImmune will contribute three clinical and three pre-clinical potential new medicines to Viela Bio, led by inebilizumab, currently in Phase II development for the treatment of neuromyelitis optica, a rare condition that affects the optic nerve and spinal cord in approximately five in 100,000 people. Inebilizumab has received Orphan Drug Designation from the FDA and the European Medicines Agency.
We are launching Viela Bio with a strong investor backing and 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, PhD, CEO of Viela Bio.
According to John Carroll, in Endpoints News, two other clinical programs are MEDI4920, an anti-CD40L-Tn3 fusion protein for an inflammatory condition called primary Sjögren’s syndrome, and MEDI7734 for myositis. Three pre-clinical programs round out Viela Bio’s initial pipeline.
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 & Development and Chief Medical Officer at Viela Bio. Mr. Carroll wrote further that there would be no layoffs at MedImmune, “with some making the jump to Viela and the rest of the people attached to these programs being assigned to other projects,” according to Bahija Jallal, MedImmune’s President.
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