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With $250M from investors, Viela Bio out on its own

MedImmune unit says it plans to create 100 jobs in three to five years

(pressmaster / Depositphotos.com)

(pressmaster / Depositphotos.com)

MedImmune spun out Viela Bio as an independent biotechnology company with $250 million in Series A financing and six potential medicines, the companies announced Wednesday.

Viela Bio will be based in Gaithersburg and will focus on inflammation and autoimmunity biologics, targeting pathways that are the root of disease.

The company said it plans to create 100 jobs within three to five years.

“We are launching Viela Bio with a strong investor backing and a very robust pipeline with multiple novel molecules in inflammation and autoimmunity,” Bing Yao, who will serve as Viela’s CEO, said in a statement. “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.”

Yao currently serves as the head of MedImmune’s Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmunity Innovative Medicines Unit.

MedImmune is the biologics research and development arm of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. It is based in Gaithersburg.

Viela Bio will start with three clinical and three pre-clinical potential medicines, contributed by MedImmune.

One of those potential medicines is inebilizumab, which has received Orphan Drug Designation from the Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency. Inebilzumab is being evaluated for the treatment of neuromyelitis optica, a rare condition affecting the optic nerve and spinal cord.

The initial financing will be used to fund the Phase II study of inebilizumab, along with some of Viela Bio’s other focuses.

“Our goal is always to find a way for the science to advance,” Bahija Jallal, president of MedImmune and executive vice president of AstraZeneca, said in a statement. “By establishing Viela Bio, we are creating an optimal environment for the continued development of our promising early-stage biologics portfolio in inflammation and autoimmunity. This has the potential to bring the most benefit to patients and will allow us to maintain focus on our three main therapy areas.”

AstraZeneca will be Viela Bio’s largest minority shareholder. Other financing comes from Boyu Capital, 6 Dimensions Capital, Hillhouse Capital, Temasek and Sirona Capital.

“We are very pleased to become an important shareholder of Viela Bio and excited about the company’s innovative therapeutics for autoimmune diseases. With its strong pipeline and world-class management team, we are highly confident that Viela will soon bring novel therapies to patients around the world,” Yanling Cao, Managing Director of Boyu Capital, said in a statement. “We would like to thank MedImmune and AstraZeneca for their strong support and look forward to working with shareholders and the management team to build an outstanding biotechnology company in the autoimmune space.”

The Maryland Department of Commerce has approved a $2 million conditional loan through the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund to assist with project costs, according to Gov. Larry Hogan’s office. Montgomery County is providing a $750,000 conditional grant for project costs, including lab equipment, and the company is also eligible for other tax credits, including the state’s Job Creation Tax Credit, the governor’s office said.


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