Adagene-Sanofi’s $2.5B deal tops March deals in China
Minhua Chu ·04/28/2022
China Deals Tracker

Several early-stage out-licensing deals inked by Chinese biotech firms to carry their in-house technology platforms and pipelines to the global market marked the dealmaking space of March 2022. Adagene led the pack with a $2.5 billion deal.

The Suzhou-based drugmaker struck its latest licensing agreement with Sanofi in March 2022. The NASDAQ-listed company granted Sanofi the rights to use its unique SAFEbody technology to develop next-generation masked monoclonal with bispecific antibodies. The potential value of the deal exceeds $2.5 billion, which makes it the highest licensing deal of the month.

Two other companies with their own tech platforms, Biosion and GenFleet Therapeutics, also entered partnerships with foreign pharmaceutical companies for early-stage projects.

The value of the three out-licensing deals is $2.9 billion, accounting for 87% of the total deal value of $3.32 billion for the month.

In-licensing ideals on the other hand, which were very hot in previous two years, continued to cool down. Although there were seven in-licensing deals in March out of a total of 13 deals, only two disclosed the financial value.

Adagene’s platform and partnerships

The key to the partnership between Adagene and Sanofi is Adagene's SAFEbody platform. The precision antibody masking platform is designed to improve the safety and tolerability of antibodies while maintaining clinical activity. Adagene believes it can provide a solution to on-target off-tumor toxicity.

ADG126, the company's wholly-owned CTLA-4 antibody developed based on SAFEbody, has been granted IND approval by the FDA for a Phase Ib/II trial in combination with the anti-PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab. The global trial (ADG126-P001 / KEYNOTE-C98) will evaluate patients with advanced/metastatic solid tumors at multiple clinical centers in the U.S. and Asia Pacific.

Aside from SAFEbody, Adagene has other two in-house platforms - NEObody and POWERbody - to generate high-quality antibodies targeting numerous epitopes and with powerful modalities respectively.

Based on NEObody, Adagene has developed the anti-CD137 IgG4 antibody ADG106 and the anti-CTLA4 antibody ADG 116. Both candidates are currently in clinical studies.

Based on its proprietary platforms, Adagene has entered into partnerships with several MNCs in recent years. The partners include Exelixis, ADC Therapeutics,Tanabe Research Laboratories, Celgene/BMS, and GlaxoSmithKline.

Adagene has also entered into a strategic collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop novel CAR-T therapies. In early 2021, it announced the discovery of what could be the world's first antibody targeting human endogenous retroviruses associated with renal cell carcinoma as a result of the collaboration.

Anti-infection becomes new targets for Chinese companies

The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged Chinese drug companies to expand their acquisition targets from oncology to anti-infection field. Antiviral drugs and vaccines are now attracting the attention of Chinese buyers.

The third biggest deal in March was an in-licensing deal in this area.

Shanghai-based Nuance Pharma acquired the exclusive rights for the adult RSV vaccine MVA-BN RSV in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Korea and certain Southeast Asian countries from Bavarian Nordic.

In return, Bavarian Nordic will receive $12.5 million upfront, up to $212.5 million milestone payments, and tiered, double-digit royalties on future net sales.

Also in March, China’s CR Pharmaceutical signed an agreement with Ab Studio (ABS). CR will attain the worldwide development and commercialization rights of ABS-VIR-001.

ABS-VIR-001 is a first-in-class trispecific antibody designed to target three antigenic epitopes of SARS‑CoV‑2’s S1 protein by computer modeling and 3D analysis techniques. It has potential prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 and variants.

Keywords: Adagene Sanofi March deals in China
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