It’s a good day for Shanghai-based I-Mab, which has penned a $2 billion upfront-biobucks R&D deal with AbbVie while also nabbing $418 million from investors.
First up, the AbbVie deal, which is made up of a $180 million upfront payment and a $20 million milestone payment—up to $2 billion all-in—with $1.74 billion of that figure roughly half split between commercial royalties and R&D biobucks.
That cash focuses on lemzoparlimab, I-Mab’s anti-CD47 monoclonal antibody, which AbbVie is also eyeing as a potential combination med with its blood cancer drug Venclexta.
There are few details on specific targets of the drug, with the China biotech saying simply it has potential for “the treatment of multiple cancers” and recently finished off a phase 1, which I-Mab said showed its early-stage drug was safe.
As a target, anti-CD47 got a lot of attention this year when Gilead Sciences bought out Forty Seven for $4.9 billion in March, giving the pharma the midphase anti-CD47 antibody magrolimab that delivered data that impressed investors late last year.
Evidence suggests drugging CD47 could neutralize a key mechanism tumors use to avoid being attacked by the immune system, thereby unlocking opportunities for combination therapies in multiple indications.
In December last year, Forty Seven went some way toward validating this approach by revealing 50% or more of the myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia patients who took magrolimab and Celgene’s Vidaza had a complete response. This seemingly got Gilead interested.
AbbVie will now hope to be able to replicate the same results, and nabs a global license for the drug (except in I-Mab’s native China).
“Cancer is the second-leading cause of death globally and the need for novel cancer therapies has never been more acute. The addition of I-Mab's novel CD47 programs complements our global clinical strategy in hematology and immuno-oncology,” said Thomas Hudson, M.D., senior vice president of R&D and chief scientific officer at AbbVie.
“We have been impressed with what I-Mab has been able to accomplish in research and clinical development and we look forward to working together to make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of patients globally.”
There's also an option for AbbVie to take on two more bispecific versions of the drug, paying out a minimum of $500 million each, bringing the deal up to $3 billion, should it also press go on these under terms they both agree to.
As if that weren’t enough good news, I-Mab also separately announced that it had bagged $418 million in a private placement from a number of investors led by Hillhouse Capital Group, with significant participation by GIC, and also including certain other leading Asian and U.S. biotech investment funds such as Avidity Partners, OrbiMed, Octagon Capital Advisors and others.