I-Mab sheds China footprint to complete transformation into US-based biotech

I-Mab Biopharma’s plan to become a U.S.-focused biotech took a stride forward with the news that the company is divesting its China operations.

As a result, the company’s work in China—which is headquartered in Shanghai—will be handed over to an “unconsolidated affiliate” of the company and a group of China-based investors. In return, I-Mab will get $80 million while retaining the right of first negotiation on the ex-China rights to “three future investigational new drug candidates.”

In a Feb. 7 release, I-Mab, which will remain listed on the Nasdaq, described the move as a key marker in its previously stated ambition to become a U.S.-based biotech. The company has already established operations in Rockville, Maryland, and in San Diego.

The biotech will keep the rights to its entire portfolio outside of China, including eftansomatropin alfa, a long-acting recombinant human growth hormone that scored a phase 3 win last year in children with growth hormone deficiency. The company had been preparing to launch the drug in China.

I-Mab’s portfolio also includes the anti-CD47 antibody lemzoparlimab. AbbVie handed back the ex-China rights to the drug in September, more than a year after the Big Pharma scrapped a pair of clinical trials for the therapy.

There is also givastomig, a Claudin 18.2 x 4-1BB bispecific antibody that I-Mab said in August had shown “encouraging findings of monotherapy efficacy” against tumors in a phase 1 trial. Also in the pipeline is uliledlimab, a CD73 monoclonal antibody being studied in a phase 2 trial in combination with Shanghai Junshi Biosciences’ Loqtorzi, and TJ-L14B, a PD-L1 x 4-1BB bispecific antibody in phase 1 development for PD-L1 antibody-resistant tumors.

“This agreement to divest our operations in China marks an important milestone for I-Mab in bringing a greater focus on the U.S. and ex-China markets,” CEO Raj Kannan said in the release. “Importantly, we believe that this transaction allows us to reduce significant operational costs and enables us to reallocate our capital on current key priorities and new potential opportunities in further strengthening our portfolio while maintaining a strong balance sheet."

I-Mab was founded in 2014 with the goal of taking advantage of the growing biologics market in China. The biotech opened its first U.S. outpost in Maryland in 2018, followed by the San Diego office in 2021.