Temasek-backed Chinese cancer biotech firm Gracell files for $100m US IPO

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Gracell Biotechnologies, a venture capital-backed Chinese biotechnology company, has filed to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering (IPO) in the US.

The US SEC filing was heavily redacted and the $100 million figure is likely a placeholder account used to calculate filing fees. No pricing terms were disclosed.

The filing comes less than two months after the biotech firm completed a $100-million Series C funding round co-led by US investment company Wellington Management, New York-based OrbiMed Healthcare Fund Management, and VC firm 5Y Capital.

Vivo Capital, a new investor in Gracell, participated in the round, along with existing investors such as Singapore’s Temasek, Shanghai-based Lilly Asia Ventures (LAV), and US Kington Capital’s King Star Capital.

Gracell had closed two rounds of funding in 2017, with an undisclosed angel round from Tonghe Capital and Shanghai Zhaoheng Investment Fund in August, followed by a 70 million yuan ($10 million) Series A round financing from 6 Dimensions Capital.

The Shanghai, China-based company was founded in 2017 and plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol GRCL. Citi, Jefferies, Piper Sandler, and Wells Fargo Securities are the joint bookrunners on the deal.

Gracell targets to deliver safe and affordable immunotherapy to solve CAR-T industry hurdles. Since its inception in 2017, Gracell has been leveraging two proprietary platforms, FasTCAR and TruUCAR, to develop a pipeline of autologous and allogeneic cell therapy candidates. Its research primarily caters to hematologic malignancies and solid tumors.

The company said its flagship TruUCAR allogeneic product candidate, GC027, is under phase 1 trial in China for the treatment of relapsed or refractory T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

In its filing, Gracell said proceeds from the offering will be used to fund research and development of its existing platforms and other clinical-stage and earlier-stage product candidate. It also seeks to finance the expansion of its manufacturing facilities in China and the construction of its R&D centre in the US.

Gracell comes to the market to raise funds even as it does not have any products yet that have gained regulatory approval for marketing, it said in the filing

“Our business is substantially dependent on our ability to obtain regulatory approval for, and, if approved, to successfully commercialize our lead product candidates,” the company said.

Gracell now joins a number of Chinese biotech companies that are raising funds in the US even as frictions between Beijing and Washington escalated with more Chinese companies put on a trade blacklist.

In November, Adagene Inc, another Chinese biotech firm backed by WuXi AppTec and private equity company General Atlantic, was reported to be planning a US IPO that could raise about $200 million.

Singapore Reporter/s

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.