AbbVie, I-Mab in $1.94-Bn Pact for Immuno-oncology Drug

AbbVie and I-Mab, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Shanghai, have signed a broad, global collaboration agreement, in a deal worth up to $1.94 billion, for the development and commercialization of lemzoparlimab, an immune-oncology drug for treating multiple cancers. In addition, the two partners have the potential to expand the collaboration to additional therapies.

Lemzoparlimab, internally discovered and developed by I-Mab, is an anti-CD47 monoclonal antibody in Phase I development that is designed to minimize inherent binding to normal red blood cells while preserving anti-tumor activity, according to information from the companies. CD47 is a cell-surface protein over-expressed in a wide variety of cancers and can act to protect tumors by delivering a “don’t eat me” signal to otherwise tumor-engulfing macrophages. The CD47 antibody blocks this signal and enables macrophages to attack tumor cells, thereby making it a potentially promising cancer drug. However, development of the CD47 antibody as a cancer therapy is hampered by its hematologic side effects, such as severe anemia, caused by natural binding of the CD47 antibody to red blood cells. Lemzoparlimab targets tumor cells while exerting a minimal untoward effect on red blood cells to avoid severe anemia, according to the companies.

Under the agreement, AbbVie will have an exclusive global license, excluding greater China, to develop and commercialize lemzoparlimab. Both companies will collaborate to design and conduct further global clinical trials to evaluate lemzoparlimab in multiple cancers. I-Mab retains all rights to develop and to commercialize lemzoparlimab in mainland China, Macau, and Hong Kong. The collaboration also allows for potential collaboration on future CD47-related therapeutic agents. Each party will have the opportunity, subject to further licenses, to explore each other’s related programs in their respective territories.

The companies will share manufacturing responsibilities with AbbVie being the primary manufacturer for global supply. The collaboration will accelerate I-Mab’s establishment of commercial production operations in China.

Under the agreement, AbbVie will pay I-Mab $180 million in an upfront payment to exclusively license lemzoparlimab, along with $20 million in a milestone payment based on the Phase I results, for a total of $200 million. In addition, I-Mab will be eligible to receive up to $1.74 billion in success-based milestone payments for lemzoparlimab, of which $840 million are based on clinical development and regulatory approval milestones, with the remainder based on commercial milestones. Upon commercialization of lemzoparlimab, AbbVie will also pay tiered royalties from low-to-mid teen percentages on global net sales outside of greater China.

I-Mab is headquartered in Shanghai and has clinical research operations in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It is focused on developing biologics for treating cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Source: AbbVie and I-Mab Biopharma

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