A logo of InnoCare. [Photo/innocarepharma.com]

InnoCare Pharma Limited, a Hong Kong-listed Chinese biopharma startup, officially launched its cancer therapy orelabrutinib in Beijing on Tuesday, marking its first commercial product since it was founded in 2015.

The drug belongs to a class of pharmaceuticals called Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitors, which inhibit the enzyme BTK and its downstream signaling to result in growth inhibition and death of certain tumorous cells.

It received approval from the China National Medical Products Administration in December for the treatment of certain types of lymphoma, after being previously granted priority review by the Center for Drug Evaluation of the NMPA.

Lymphoma, a malignant tumor that originates from the lymphoid hematopoietic system, is one of the top 10 malignant tumors with the highest mortality rates in China. The drug has received support from the National Science and Technology Major Project for “Innovative Drug Research and Development”, a national project launched in 2008 to promote development of homegrown therapies.

The launch made the drug the third BTK inhibitor available for patients on Chinese mainland, which represents the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical market.

Jasmine Cui, co-founder, president and CEO of the company, said the launch of the drug set a milestone of the company development, and the enterprise will continue to accelerate clinical research and development of the drug for other indications and actively tap global market opportunities.

According to a report by research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, sales of BTK inhibitors exceeded $8 billion in 2019 globally, and the value of BTK inhibitor market in China is expected to hit $700 million in 2022.

Famous biology Shi Yigong is the co-founder and president of the Science Advisory Board of InnoCare Pharma.