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Week in Review: Fosun Acquires VerImmune Cancer Immunotherapy in $125 Million Deal

publication date: May 28, 2022
author/source: Richard Daverman, PhD

Deals and Financings

Fosun Pharma (SHA: 600196; HK: 02196) acquired China rights to a novel broad cancer immunotherapy candidate from VerImmune of Baltimore in an $125 million agreement (see story). VerImmune’s Virus-Inspired Particle (ViP) technology attacks cancers by redirecting the body’s pre-existing immunity against viral pathogens from vaccinations and past infections. The ViPs are expected to create a response from existing immunity toward a broad range of tumors without the need to identify tumor antigens or generate tumor-specific immune responses. Fosun will pay VerImmune up to $125 million in upfront and milestone payments plus tiered royalties. 

Oncotelic Therapeutics (OTCQB: OTLC), a South San Francisco company, formed a Hong Kong JV with Dragon Overseas Capital to develop TGF-β therapeutics (see story). Oncotelic’s OT-101 is an antisense candidate that targets TGF-β2 to treat solid tumors, especially brain cancer in adults and DIPG, a rare form of childhood brain cancer. Oncotelic said the JV would assume financial support for clinical development of OT-101. Dragon Overseas will invest $27.6 million in cash (and other assets) for a 55% stake in the JV, implying a $50 million valuation for the JV. Oncotelic licensed OT-101 to the JV for the remaining 45%. 

Shanghai Full-Life Technologies closed a $37 million Series A financing to develop its pipeline of radiopharmaceutical oncology products and radiotechnology production platform (see story). Full-Life's discovery platform includes optimized single domain antibodies, peptides and linkers to radionuclides. It also pairs each development candidate with a theranostic nuclide to generate human PKPD data that guides patient selection before administering its therapeutic medicines. So far, Full-Life has disclosed three major targets, two of which are in IND development. The financing round was led by Sequoia China, together with Yunion Healthcare Ventures, Junson Capital, CD Capital and Kunlun Capital. 

CASI Pharma (NSDQ: CASI), a Maryland-Beijing biopharma, will sublicense global rights to develop its anti-CD38 candidate for autoimmune conditions to Beijing Tianshi Tongda Pharmaceuticals (see story). Tianshi will make a $10 million upfront payment to CASI, while CASI will contribute $3 million to Tianshi’s $21 million venture funding in exchange for a 15% Tianshi stake. Although the agreement is supposed to be global, CASI will book all US revenues from the CD38 for autoimmune indications and (possibly) for hematology-autoimmune indications in China. CASI originally acquired CID-103 as a therapy for multiple myeloma. 

DongCheng Pharma, a Yantai imaging tracer company, acquired Greater China rights to commercialize a CD8 ImmunoPET agent developed by ImaginAb of Los Angeles (see story). ImmunoPET’s CD8 agent (zirconium Zr 89 crefmirlimab berdoxam) is a Zr 89 -labelled Minibody that binds the CD8 receptor on human T cells. It offers quantitative, non-invasive PET imaging of CD8 T cells in patients, which diagnoses a patient’s immune status and predicts the efficacy of immunotherapies. Initially, the CD8 agent will start clinical trials led by a third party for China approval. ImaginAb will receive license and milestone payments plus royalties on sales. 

Chia Tai?Tianqing Pharma (CTTQ), a Nanjing subsidiary of Sino Biopharma, will acquire global rights to an anti-LAG3 mAb from Symphogen A/S of Denmark (see story). Sym022 is a mAb that binds LAG3 to block the interaction with MHCII, which increases T cell proliferation and production of cytokines. In two Phase I trials, Sym022 proved itself to be safe and well-tolerated as a monotherapy and in combination with checkpoint inhibitors. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. Symphogen is the Antibody Center of Excellence for Servier, a privately held French biopharma. 

Trials and Approvals

Legend Biotech (NSDQ: LEGN), a Nanjing-New Jersey cell therapy company, was approved to launch its CAR-T therapy, Carvykti®, in Europe for patients with multiple myeloma (see story). In a Phase Ib/II pivotal trial that enrolled patients who had received at least three prior treatments regimens, Carvykti® produced an overall response rate of 98% and an 80% complete response rate. In 2017, Legend stunned an ASCO meeting with news that its CAR-T showed a very high 94% complete response rate. Janssen, a J&J company, paid $350 million upfront later that year to partner the drug. 

Laekna Therapeutics, a Shanghai-New Jersey clinical-stage biotech, has dosed the first patients in a China-US Phase Ib/III trial of an AKT kinase inhibitor for breast cancer (see story). Afuresertib, an investigational AKT kinase inhibitor, will be administered as a second-line therapy to patients with hormone receptor-positive (HR+)/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative (HER2-) breast cancer. Laekna in-licensed global rights to afuresertib from Novartis. One week ago, Laekna raised $61 million in a Series D financing to advance its next-gen cancer and liver disease medicines. 

COVID-19 Pandemic

Tianjin CanSino Biologics (SHA: 688185; HK: 06185) reported its novel recombinant Coronavirus vaccine, Convidecia™, was approved for Emergency Use by WHO (see story). Convidecia is a one-shot COVID vaccine with an adenovirus type 5 vector that expresses the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus spike protein. According to CanSinoBio, the one-shot feature and the vaccine’s storage stability between 2°C and 8°C both factored into WHO’s approval, along with its efficacy. Convidecia is approved in China and ten other countries outside the US and EU markets. It has also shown efficacy as a heterologous booster. 

Shanghai Junshi Biosciences (HK: 1877; SHA: 688180) reported that its novel SARS-CoV-2 therapy reduced recovery time in a Phase III trial compared to Pfizer’s Paxlovid, the current standard of care (see story). According to Junshi, its candidate, VV116, provided a statistically significant improvement in time-to-recovery among patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for disease progression. VV116 is an oral nucleoside analog drug that inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV-2. It was developed by several China government institutes including the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, plus Suzhou Vigonvita Life Sciences and Junshi Bio. 

Disclosure: none.  


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