MorphoSys sells China rights to Darzalex rival in $120M deal

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MorphoSys management flagged up their interest in striking deals covering the asset earlier this month.

MorphoSys has found a buyer for the Chinese rights to multiple myeloma candidate MOR202. The deal puts I-Mab Biopharma in charge of developing the CD38 antibody in China and neighboring territories in return for $120 million in upfront and milestone payments. 

I-Mab is handing over the first $20 million straightaway, with the remaining $100 million and tiered double-digit royalties to follow if MOR202 clears clinical and commercial milestones. Responsibility for taking MOR202 past those milestones in China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan will fall squarely on I-Mab.

MOR202 was the subject of an $818 million pact with Celgene from 2013 to 2015, at which point the big biotech decided to walk away from the program. Celgene had previously called CD38 a “validated highly promising target” but by 2015 it was clear Genmab and Johnson & Johnson’s rival daratumumab had beaten MOR202 to the punch.

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RELATED: MorphoSys tanks after Celgene walks away from $818M pact

Daratumumab, now sold as Darzalex, went on to deliver stellar data that won it approval and then moved it up the treatment pathway. But MorphoSys has continued to plug away in CD38, pairing the highest dose of MOR202 with Celgene’s Pomalyst and Revlimid in a phase 1/2 and pointing to the shorter infusion times to argue its drug has an edge over Darzalex.

That has taken MorphoSys to the point where it thinks it will be best served by bringing external partners on board to support further clinical development. Management flagged up their interest in striking deals covering the asset earlier this month.

Having quickly executed that plan, MorphoSys has bumped up its revenue projection and forecast spending. Anticipated revenue for 2017 is up about €15 million, pushing it into the €63 million to €65 million bracket. Forecast spending on proprietary R&D has also risen from around €90 million up toward the €100 million mark.