AbbVie pens cancer pact with U.S.-China biotech Jacobio

AbbVie has signed a new pact to focus on SHP2 inhibitors, which target a key node in cancer and immune cells, from early-stage biotech Jacobio Pharmaceuticals.

Under the deal, financials of which are not being shared, AbbVie nabs an exclusive license to the China and U.S. company’s SHP2 portfolio.

Jacobio will work on early global clinical trials of the two leading candidates out of this portfolio, namely JAB-3068 and JAB-3312, but now AbbVie will start covering R&D expenses.

When Jacobio finishes up, AbbVie steps in and takes over both global development and sales work.

Jacobio also snags an option, which it can hit before the start of registrational trials, to exclusively develop and sell the SHP2 program in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

SHP2, the tyrosine phosphatase encoded by oncogene PTPN11, drives a subset of cancers and has a role in the RTK-RAS-MAPK cascade and other pathways that are dysregulated in tumors. Inhibitors could block these signaling cascades, slowing tumor growth.

The inhibitors may be effective in cancers of the lung, colon and skin with mutations in KRAS, NF1 or BRAF and is also being tested by Revolution Medicines and partner Sanofi.

“Identifying promising new targeted approaches for solid tumor patients is a high priority for us,” said Mohit Trikha, Ph.D., vice president, head of early development oncology and Bay Area site head at AbbVie.

“Jacobio's SHP2 program has the potential to treat cancer patients across many tumor types. By targeting a key node in both cancer and immune cell signaling pathways, SHP2 inhibition, both as a monotherapy and potentially in combination with other agents, may rapidly advance new treatment options for cancer patients.”

Back in 2018, Jacobio raised $55 million in a series C round from the likes of Qiming Capital and Hillhouse Capital, which led the round, and saw a new investor join in: Hong Kong’s Prudence Investment Management, China Money Network reported. Lilly Asia Ventures backed the company in a previous round. The biotech was founded back in 2015.

“We are excited to expand our efforts in global development of delivering breakthrough innovation to not just Chinese, but global patients with cancer,” said Yinxiang Wang, Ph.D., Jacobio's CEO and chairman. 

“We look forward to a productive collaboration with AbbVie focused on rapidly advancing this novel SHP2 first-in-class therapy as a new approach for multiple cancer types. I am confident that this partnership will strengthen our R&D capabilities and ultimately bring benefits to cancer patients.”

AbbVie is looking to push on with its cancer pipeline work after the humiliation of Rova-T, aka Rovalpituzumab tesirine, which it grabbed in its $5.8 billion buyout of Stemcentrx in 2016 only for it to turn out to be a colossal flop that ended up on the scrapheap last summer.

The biopharma is now partnering up and branching out into areas like STING, PARPS and CAR-M in an effort to find a more profitable target in the future.