Innovent buys Chinese rights to Incyte drugs for $40M upfront

Innovent Biologics has bagged the Chinese rights to three clinical-phase oncology and hematology drugs in development at Incyte. The agreement sees Innovent pay $40 million upfront and commit to about $350 million in milestones for a trio of drugs that are in phase 2 and 3 testing in the West.

China’s Innovent put itself on the map earlier this year when it raised $421 million in a Hong Kong IPO. The listing, which valued Innovent at around $2 billion, set the biotech up to advance a broad pipeline of clinical-phase drugs and biosimilars—including the Eli Lilly-partnered anti-PD-1 antibody sintilimab—while looking to add new drugs to the roster.

Now, Innovent has struck a deal with Incyte to add three novel medicines to its pipeline. The most advanced of the three candidates is itacitinib, a JAK1 inhibitor Incyte is testing in patients with graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). Data from a phase 3 trial of itacitinib in acute GvHD are due next year. Incyte is also developing itacitinib as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer.

A phase 3 trial of another of the drugs licensed by Innovent—FGFR inhibitor pemigatinib—is due to start enrolling patients with a form of bile duct cancer by the end of the year. The third asset licensed by Innovent—PI3Kδ inhibitor parsaclisib—is in phase 2 development in non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

While Incyte has focused on generating the data needed to crack Western markets, Innovent will take the candidates forward in China Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, the markets covered by the deal. Innovent plans to file the first IND for the drugs in China next year, at which point it will pay Incyte a $20 million milestone.

The Chinese clinical development programs will provide a test of Innovent’s pitch to Western drug developers. Having built up infrastructure to support the development and commercialization of sintilimab and biosimilar copies of Avastin, Humira and MabThera, Innovent thinks it has the resources to take drugs from Western companies and bring them to Chinese patients.  

“[We believe] this collaboration … proves that Innovent is an ideal partner for world-class pharmaceutical companies coming to China—transforming Innovent from a company primarily focused on monoclonal antibodies to one with a broader oncology focus that develops potentially innovative treatments regardless of molecule size,” Innovent CEO Michael Yu said in a statement.