Week In Review: Nearly $2 Billion Late-December Week For China Pharma Deals


Nanjing Legend Biotech received a $350 million upfront payment from Janssen Biotech, which will form a global partnership with Legend for its highly effective CAR-T candidate. In June, Legend, which was not previously well known, surprised the annual ASCO meeting with stunningly positive results from an early trial of the CAR-T molecule in patients with multiple myeloma. In addition to the $350 million initial payment, Janssen will make unspecified development and regulatory milestone payments to Legend. The two companies will split costs and profits 50-50 in global markets, except for China, where Legend will receive 70% of the profits. Legend has already submitted an NDA in China for the candidate. The two companies plan to start US trials soon.


Crown Bioscience (TPEX:6554), a CRO with facilities in China, Taiwan, the US and Europe, will be acquired for $400 million by JSR Corporation of Japan. The offer was a 105% premium to the previous day’s CrownBio stock price. With an extensive library of patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models, CrownBio offers translational programs for drug discovery and development in oncology, inflammation, cardiovascular and metabolic disease research. JSR is known as a materials sciences company, primarily for rubber-type products. It has recently expanded into life science through acquisitions.


JHL Biotech (TPEx:6540) is planning a voluntary delisting from the Taiwan stock exchange. The biosimilar company, which has a $419 million market capitalization, operates in Taiwan and Wuhan, China. The proposed delisting allows shareholders to hold on to their shares while the company is private, if they choose to do so. Following the delisting, JHL anticipates new sources of funding, most likely including an IPO on a foreign exchange. In 2012, JHL was founded in Taiwan by veterans of Genentech and Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) with the goal of producing affordable, effective biosimilar drugs.


China’s I-Mab Biopharma inked a $548 million agreement with Genexine (KOSDAQ:095700) of South Korea to in-license China rights to Genexine’s immuno oncology candidate, HyLeukin. I-Mab paid $12 million upfront and is responsible for the remainder in milestones, plus royalties on sales. HyLeukin uses Interleukin-7, a factor in the proliferation and homeostasis of T cells, to create the immunotherapy. Genexine is a prolific dealmaker with China pharmas – it is a major investor in I-Mab and has forged several deals with Tasly Pharma (SHA:600535), also an investor in I-Mab along with C-Bridge Capital.


Ambrx announced a $143.5 million agreement to in-license China rights for a liver cancer treatment with an anti-angiogenesis mechanism, developed by Tracon Pharma (NASDAQ:TCON) of San Diego (see story). Two years ago, Ambrx, a San Diego-Shanghai antibody-conjugate biotech company, was acquired by Fosun Pharma (OTCPK:FOSUY) (SHA:600196) (HK:02196) and WuXi PharmaTech (OTC:WXIBF) plus two China equity investors. The new agreement gives Ambrx rights to Tracon’s proprietary endoglin antibody, TRC105 (carotuximab), in greater China.


Huadong Medicine (SZE:000963) signed an $83 million agreement to acquire China/Western Asia rights for a diabetes 2 treatment developed by vTv Therapeutics (NASDAQ:VTVT) of North Carolina (see story). TTP273 is an oral GLP-1r agonist. Huadong will pay $8 million upfront and be responsible for an additional $75 million in milestones plus royalties. TTP273 has successfully completed a US Phase II trial, providing a statistically significant reduction in HbA1c in type 2 diabetics.

Shanghai’s Zai Lab (NASDAQ:ZLAB) acquired China rights to a novel immunotherapy for gastric and gastro-esophageal tumors from Five Prime Therapeutics (NASDAQ:FPRX) of San Francisco (see story). The candidate, FPA144, targets cancers that overexpress FGFR2b. Zai will manage the China arm of a global FPA144 Phase III trial, scheduled for next year. Zai paid $5 million upfront and is responsible for $39 million in milestones. It will pay royalties ranging from high teen to low twenties on any sales. In addition, Zai is eligible to receive a low-single-digit royalty on FPA144 net sales outside of Greater China.


Great Belief International Limited, a BVI investment company, will pay $29 million to acquire SurgiBot, a minimally invasive surgical robot, from TransEnterix (NYSEMKT:TRXC) of North Carolina. GBIL will manufacture the system in China and work to obtain CFDA approval of SurgiBot. It plans to commercialize the system in China through a Sinopharm subsidiary, while TransEnterix will retain rights to co-promote SurgiBot outside of China. SurgiBot, which has not been approved in any country, is a single-port, robotically enhanced laparoscopic platform for abdominal surgeries.


Shanghai’s Yonghua Capital, a private equity investor with an interest in life science, led a $25 million Series B funding in Taris Biomedical. Taris is a Boston-area company that is developing implanted, continuous delivery devices combined with known cancer drugs for bladder disease treatment. Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY), one of the other investors in the B round, struck a deal with Taris to test its Opdivo checkpoint inhibitor in combination with Taris’s lead program, TAR-200 (GemRIS). TAR-200 administers gemcitabine continuously to the bladder for seven days.


Jacobson Pharma (HK:2633) in-licensed Hong Kong rights to a Herceptin biosimilar being developed by Shanghai Henlius Biotech. To obtain the rights, Jacobson will make a $15 million investment in Henlius, a biotech JV started in 2009 by Fosun Pharma (SHA:600196; HK:2196) and Henlius Biotech. Jacobson will own the Hong Kong and Macau rights to the candidate for 10 years and have first refusal rights in other ASEAN countries. The $15 million investment constitutes 8% of the $190 million Henlius is seeking in its current fundraising, according to the official press release.


Trials and Approvals

CANbridge Life Sciences, a Beijing biopharma, filed an IND application to the CFDA for a Phase Ib/III trial of CAN017 in esophageal squamous cell cancer (ESCC). Founded in 2012, CANbridge develops western drugs for China and North Asia. The company in-licensed rights to CAN017 in 2016 from AVEO Oncology (NASDAQ:AVEO) of Massachusetts in a $134 million agreement. The IND is CANbridge’s second CFDA submission in 2017; it filed an IND for its lead candidate, CAN008, for glioblastoma in July.

Beijing’s BeiGene (NASDAQ:BGNE) dosed the first patient in a China Phase II trial of its PARP inhibitor in patients with advanced ovarian cancer. Earlier this year, the candidate, BGB-290 (pamiparib), produced positive early results in an Australian trial: clinical response was 33% in patients with epithelial forms of ovarian cancer and 43% in the BRCA group. In July, BeiGene signed a blockbuster $1.4 billion deal with Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG) for ex-Asia rights to another of its assets, a PD-1 candidate.

Disclosure: None.

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