- Abpro Bio, a Korean company, announced a $1.1 billion agreement to acquire Asian rights (including China) to two bi-specific antibody candidates being developed by Abpro of Boston.
- Merck KGaA of Germany announced China approval of Erbitux® to treat patients with head and neck cancer.
- Roche's Actemra was approved to treat coronavirus patients with serious disease and lung damage, according to new China guidelines for COVID-19 treatment.
Deals and Financings
Abpro Bio, a Korean company, announced a $1.1 billion agreement to acquire Asian rights (including China) to two bi-specific antibody candidates being developed by Abpro of Boston. Abpro Bio, known previously as Ugint (KOSDAQ:195990), manufactures precision machine tools and was not involved in biopharma. It made a $30 million equity investment in Abpro and will be responsible for more than $1 billion in milestones and royalties. ABP-100 targets HER2 and CD3 to treat HER2+ solid tumors. ABP-201, with an angiogenesis mechanism, targets VEGF and ANG2 to treat vascular diseases of the eye.
3SBio (HK:1530) of Shenyang has invested in two new cancer funds that are based on research from Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. MPM Capital announced it has closed the MPM Oncology Innovations Fund (INV) with $100M in capital, and the Dana-Farber Innovations Research Fund (IRF) with more than $26M in pledged donations. MPM said it expects 50% of the INV will back companies developing products developed out of Dana-Farber research. 3SBio is a limited partner in the INV and will donate to the INF, though details were not disclosed.
Realbio Technology, a Shanghai biopharma focused on the human microbiome, received a strategic majority investment from Shanghai Zhangjiang Haocheng VC. Founded in 2014, Realbio offers an early screening test for colorectal cancer, Colowell®, and RealPathogen™, a high-throughput sequencing detection product for severe infections. The company plans a public listing in the future. Zhangjiang Haocheng is an investment platform of Shanghai Zhangjiang High-Tech Development.
Beijing Shenogen Pharma in-licensed China-Asia rights from Alopexx Oncology of Massachusetts to a novel antibody-cytokine fusion protein (or immunocytokine) that targets the B cell antigen CD20. It is aimed at treating patients with relapsed or refractory B-cell CD20 positive lymphoma. DI-LEU16-IL2 recognizes the same target on B cells as Rituxan and maintains the activities of both the antibody and cytokine components. It is also expected to target the tumor, engage the immune system, and induce a cancer-fighting vaccine effect.
Trials and Approvals
Merck KGaA (OTCPK:MKGAY) [DE:MRK] of Germany announced China approval of Erbitux® to treat patients with head and neck cancer (see story). Last year, Erbitux was granted its first approval by China's NMPA for RAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer. The new indication of the EFGR drug is for first-line treatment of patients with recurrent and/or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (R/M SCCHN) in combination with platinum-based therapy. In 1998, Merck acquired global marketing rights to Erbitux from Lilly (LLY) outside of the US and Canada.
Shanghai Zhimeng Biopharma started first-in-human dosing of its novel, investigational HBV capsid formation inhibitor in a US Phase I trial. Zhimeng is developing ZM-H1505R for chronic HBV infection. Unlike core protein allosteric modulators, ZM-H1505R is a novel pyrazole molecule with a new binding site in the HBV core protein that inhibits HBV replication. The company expects the candidate will be a cure for HBV, not a treatment. Immediately following this trial, Zhimeng plans to start a China clinical study of ZM-H1505R in HBV-infected patients.
Suzhou Innovent Biologics (HK:01801) dosed the first patient in a pivotal China Phase II trial of pemigatinib (IBI375), a FGFR1/2/3 inhibitor (see story). The trial is designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of pemigatinib in patients with advanced cholangiocarcinoma. Innovent acquired greater China rights from Incyte (INCY) for the candidate in late 2018 as part of a $390 million, three-drug deal. In November 2019, Incyte submitted an NDA in the US for pemigatinib under priority review rules.
Roche's (OTCQX:RHHBY) Actemra, first approved by the US FDA in 2010 for rheumatoid arthritis, was approved to treat coronavirus patients with serious disease and lung damage, according to new China guidelines for COVID-19 treatment (see story). Actemra isn't intended to kill the coronavirus directly. Instead, it inhibits the interleukin 6 (IL-6) receptor, a proinflammatory cytokine, reducing the potentially lethal cytokine storm that affects seriously ill patients. China will allow the use of Actemra in patients with elevated IL-6 levels, which was already being used as an indicator of worsening disease.
Harbour BioMed partnered with Mount Sinai Health System of New York City to discover novel antibodies that treat/prevent oncology and immunology diseases, starting with a COVID-19 mAb. HBM will use its H2L2 Harbour Mice® platform to generate mAbs that treat people who contract the virus or for prophylactic use in healthcare workers or other people exposed to the virus. The antibody will aim to block the virus from infecting cells. Harbour's discovery operations are in Rotterdam, its headquarters in Boston, and other operations in Suzhou and Shanghai.
Sihuan Pharma (HK: 0460) has started a China clinical trial of favipiravir, an RNA polymerase inhibitor, to treat COVID-19. The oral drug was co-developed by Sihuan and the Institute of Microbiology Epidemiology of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences. In 2014, Sihuan's tests of favipiravir showed it was an effective treatment for Ebola. China's Human Genetic Resources Management Office reviewed and approved the COVID-19 trial in one day. If favipiravir proves effective against the COVID-19 virus, Sihuan promised to distribute it for free.
Editor's Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.
This article was written by