Arrowhead Pharma Teams With Silicon Valley VC Vivo on New China Venture

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

Arrowhead Pharma Teams With Silicon Valley VC Vivo on New China Venture

Pasadena-based Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals has landed a $60 million investment from Silicon Valley health care venture firm Vivo Capital to launch a new joint venture tapping into one of the fastest-growing markets for drugs: China.

On Monday, the local pharma firm announced that it is partnering with Vivo to form Visirna Therapeutics, a new venture that aims to develop and sell four of Arrowhead’s early-stage treatments in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Arrowhead’s therapies utilize RNA interference—a new way to manipulate genes in cells that has largely been used to treat cardiometabolic diseases like hypertension, hyperlipidemia and type 2 diabetes.

Vivo—which has also backed health care startups like cancer-focused Genetron and surgical instrument company Golden Stapler—said it will leverage its network in China to recruit for leadership roles, parse through the country’s regulatory policies and develop commercialization strategies for the region.

“Greater China is an important region for global pharmaceutical products broadly, and specifically for medicines that treat cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,” Christopher Anzalone, Arrowhead’s president and CEO, said in a statement. He added that having a dedicated company in China that is entrenched in the country’s regulatory environment will allow Arrowhead to develop and commercialize drugs in the region faster, without taking away from its core business strategies.

Venture capital activity at large in China totaled $113.8 billion in 2021, according to PitchBook data—the second-highest annual figure on record, eclipsed only by the $126.5 billion invested in 2018. Nearly 19% of venture deals in China last year involved investors from outside the country, while dollars invested in China’s biotech and pharma sector soared nearly 44% from the year prior, according to Pitchbook.

American pharma companies like Merck and Eli Lilly have flocked to China as the country has looked to grow its health care sector to meet the rising demands of its aging population.

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