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San Diego’s RuiYi Raises $15M for Pipeline of Biologic Therapeutics

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego-based RuiYi said has raised $15 million to advance its lead biologic drug candidate in China, and to expand its technology for generating additional monoclonal antibodies that represent a potential new class of biologics for treating a variety of diseases.

In a statement yesterday, RuiYi says its lead compound, RYI-008, is the vanguard in a new class of monoclonal antibodies with unique pharmacological characteristics that could make them highly selective and long-acting—resulting in significantly lower production costs.

“We use one-thirty-fifth the amount of protein, and there is a direct relationship between how much protein is used and the company’s cost of goods,” RuiYi CEO Paul Grayson said by phone yesterday.

RYI-008 is under development as a potential treatment for autoimmune disease and cancer. But Grayson says the company has developed technology that can identify a multitude of biologics that act on a protein family known as the G-Protein Coupled Receptor (GPCR). GPCRs are known as a valuable class of drug targets, but their potential has gone largely unexplored because changes in the loops and folds of the protein’s 3-D structure make it difficult to isolate a particular functional form. Small molecule drugs don’t bind with enough specificity to known drug targets, Grayson added.

RuiYi has been working through its Asian partners to develop these new biologic drugs for China’s emerging market, and Grayson says he could write a book on the challenges of developing biologics in a developing country. In order to succeed, costs must be kept low.

As part of that strategy, the company currently has just 27 employees, including five in San Diego, Grayson said. Most of RuiYi’s operations are in Shanghai. The company said it recently expanded its leadership team by appointing Erik Karrer as chief scientific officer and Brian Campion, as vice president of business development.

The company raised its latest round of funding from 5AM Ventures, Versant Ventures, Apposite Capital, SR One, Merck Serono Ventures, Aravis SA, and Merck Serono.

“RuiYi’s strategy to develop novel therapeutics in an emerging market is a unique opportunity to address a large and underserved patient population who have not had access to biologic therapies,” said Andy Schwab of 5AM Ventures in the statement released by RuiYi.

Grayson says, “With this support from our investors, we have expanded our team and will advance RYI-018 through protein engineering for IND enabling studies and move RYI-008 into clinical trials in China. To meet their medical needs, China needs more than biosimilars, they need new, innovative therapeutics. We see our drug development strategy in China as a way to take a lead in creating new innovative medicines that could help patients around the world.”