Temasek-backed Tessa Therapeutics inks $120m oncology JV with China’s CSGKC

A research technologist prepares a Tessa Therapeutics Pte. virus specific t-cells (VST) infusion for cancer patients as part of a clinical trial inside a good manufacturing practice (GMP) room at Singapore's National Cancer Center (NCCS) in Singapore, on Thursday, Feb 23, 2017. Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg

Tessa Therapeutics, a Temasek-backed clinical stage biotech company, is forming a $120 million joint venture (JV) with China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City (CSGKC) to find the next cure for cancer.

CSGKC, formerly known as the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City (SSGKC), is one of China’s masterplan projects along the Greater Bay Area aimed at turning large swathes of land into economically thriving cities for industrial, residential and business use.

According to a statement, CSGKC will invest $80 million while Tessa will contribute $40 million to the JV.

The capital will be injected across two stages. In the first stage, CSGKC will invest $40 million for a 13 per cent stake in the JV, while Tessa will provide $20 million and its technology license rights for China. Tessa will own the remaining 87 per cent stake.

The deal also makes this JV the sole licensee of Tessa’s cell therapies for research, clinical development and commercialization in China.

Tessa added that the JV’s immediate focus will be to conduct clinical trials for its cell therapies in China, which target cancers for patients with hematological malignancies and solid tumors. This will be done by boosting operational capabilities and adding more clinical trial sites in the country.

“China is an important market in our goal to develop innovative cell therapies and make them widely accessible for cancer patients all over the world,” said Andrew Khoo, Tessa Therapeutics CEO and co-founder.

The joint venture is an important milestone in Tessa’s China strategy and will draw from Tessa’s international clinical execution capability and cell therapy platform technologies.

Founded in 2012, Tessa Therapeutics is a Singapore-based biopharma company founded by Dr. Malcolm Brenner, Andrew Khoo and Francis Chua. Their research taps on Virus-Specific T cells (VSTs), a type of immune cell which show early efficacy and safety in the treatment of cancer.

In 2018, Tessa raised $50-million from undisclosed investors, bringing the total raised for its Series E round to $130-million. The startup previously raised $80-million in 2017 led by Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings, EDBI, Karst Peak Capital, Heliconia Capital Management, Heritas and other investors.