(Bloomberg) — U.S. drugmaker AbbVie Inc. and Chinese drug developer I-Mab agreed to collaborate on a cancer treatment in a deal that could be worth more than $2.9 billion.
The deal gives North Chicago, Illinois-based AbbVie an exclusive global license to develop and sell I-Mab’s cancer-fighting drug outside of Greater China, according to a statement seen by Bloomberg News. The drug lemzoparlimab, also known as TJC4, is an antibody discovered by the Shanghai-based company that is used to treat multiple forms of cancer.
AbbVie will pay I-Mab $180 million up front as well as $20 million based on recently-released clinical data, according to the statement. I-Mab could also receive as much as $1.74 billion in milestone payments based on development, regulatory and sales criteria. The Chinese firm will get royalties from future sales of the drug.
The partnership also gives AbbVie a right of first negotiation to license further development and sales of two other lemzoparlimab-based antibodies developed by I-Mab. The potential combined value would be at least $1 billion in upfront and milestone payments.
Separately, I-Mab also announced that a consortium led by Hillhouse Capital has agreed to invest $418 million through a private placement. The deal includes an offering of 29.1 million ordinary shares to the investors at a price equivalent to $33 for each of I-Mab’s American depositary shares, according to a statement. The placement will also see the issue of warrants worth an additional $104.5 million if fully exercised. Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte participated in the offering as well.
I-Mab, which raised $114 million in a U.S. initial public offering in January, had been seeking a partner to jointly develop and sell lemzoparlimab in the world’s biggest economy, Bloomberg News first reported in April.
The therapy targets a “do-not-eat-me” signal that allows cancer cells to avoid being targeted by the patient’s own immune system, according to I-Mab’s website. The drug blocks the signal, allowing the immune system to engulf and eradicate the malignant cells.
I-Mab’s deal with AbbVie is the latest large transaction in one of the hottest areas of pharmaceutical research: cancer treatments that harness the immune system to fight tumors. Earlier this year, Gilead Sciences Inc. completed the acquisition of immuno-oncology firm Forty Seven Inc. for about $4.9 billion.
In June, AbbVie agreed a cancer research and development pact with Danish biotechnology company Genmab A/S that may generate payments of more than $3 billion.
Jefferies LLC is the lead placement agent on I-Mab’s private placement, and China Renaissance Holdings Ltd. participated as a financial adviser.
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