I-Mab hits the deal table with biopharma majors to talk partnerships and investments: report

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Work on a deal for anti-CD73 antibody uliledlimab is continuing. (iStock)

I-Mab has had a big 12 months, landing an $180 million upfront from AbbVie and delivering a series of readouts from clinical trials. Now, the Chinese biotech is reportedly seeking to build on its progress by talking to global biopharma companies about partnerships and investments.

Bloomberg broke news of the “early talks” with global biopharma companies in an article based on anonymous sources. I-Mab is reportedly conducting a strategic review that could lead to cooperation on clinical development in China or the sale of an equity stake. Unnamed large U.S. and European drugmakers are on the other side of the deal table. 

The article, which says I-Mab is also talking to potential financial advisers, follows a report in June that the biotech is seeking a partner for its anti-CD73 antibody uliledlimab. Work on an uliledlimab deal is continuing, with the goal being to replicate the success of the 2020 agreement with AbbVie.

AbbVie paid $180 million and committed to almost 10 times as much in milestones for the rights to anti-CD47 antibody lemzoparlimab outside of greater China, moving it into a space that has caught the attention of peers including Gilead Sciences and Pfizer.  

RELATED: I-Mab's uliledlimab sees positive data in Tecentriq combo test

Big biopharma companies have also shown an interest in CD73, the target of the drug I-Mab is now seeking to partner. AstraZeneca and Bristol Myers Squibb have taken anti-CD73 prospects into the clinic in recent years, attracted by evidence of the role the enzyme plays in the production of an immunosuppressive molecule in the tumor microenvironment. 

I-Mab, which posted early clinical data on uliledlimab in May, sees its candidate as a differentiated molecule that can overcome resistance to drugs such as checkpoint inhibitors. The biotech is testing uliledlimab in combination with Roche’s PD-1 drug Tecentriq.

Uliledlimab is part of I-Mab’s global portfolio. I-Mab’s goal with the global portfolio is to quickly take assets to clinical proof of concept and then out-license them. The strategy is the mirror image of I-Mab’s approach in China, where it is seeking to in-license assets that have reached clinical proof of concept and bring them to market.