CHINA –Arrowhead and Vivo Capital are forming Visirna Therapeutics to bring four of the biotech’s RNAi therapies to China, with a US$60 million initial investment from the venture capital firm.

The new joint venture will focus on four of Arrowhead’s therapies for cardiometabolic diseases through a licensing agreement.

Vivo will invest an initial US$60 million in work, with the goal of eventually launching them in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

Arrowhead will own the majority of the new biotech and will be eligible for royalties on any sales generated by the venture.

Vivo will then use its Chinese network to assist the new company in a variety of ways, including recruiting a leadership team, developing the new entity, and developing clinical and regulatory strategies.

To launch drugs in China, many companies seek partnerships with local companies with deep roots in the country.

According to Arrowhead President and CEO Christopher Anzalone, Ph.D., this is the quickest and most effective way to enter the market, with people who “are solely focused on the intricacies of China’s clinical, regulatory, and commercial environment.”

We believe this structure will allow us to maximize the value of key Arrowhead assets without losing focus on our core business opportunities,” Anzalone said.

While the Arrowhead therapies are the initial focus, Vivo Managing Partner Hongbo Lu, Ph.D. hinted at a broader strategy that will include internal R&D and strategic acquisitions of additional products.

Lu and Vivo Capital managing director Gaurav Aggarwal will join Visirna’s board of directors. Arrowhead will also appoint board members.

The new venture’s exact assets to be licensed were not disclosed. Arrowhead is working on a phase 3 drug called ARO-APOC3 for the metabolic disease hypertriglyceridemia, which occurs when triglycerides build up in the blood, causing pancreatitis or artery hardening.

ARO-ANG3 is being studied in phase 2 for dyslipidemia, a condition in which abnormally high levels of cholesterol build up in the blood.

Arrowhead has collaborations with Takeda, GlaxoSmithKline, J&J’s Janssen unit, Amgen, and Horizon Therapeutics.

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