The biggest deal of the month was between Junshi Biosciences (HKEX: 1877; SSE: 688180) and US biosimilar company Coherus BioSciences, Inc. (“Coherus”, Nasdaq: CHRS). Coherus acquired exclusive rights to the development and commercialization of toripalimab, Junshi’s anti-PD-1 antibody, in the United States and Canada.
In return, Coherus will pay up to 1.11 billion USD upfront as well as an exercise fee and milestone payments for granting the toripalimab license and two option programs (if exercised). Additionally, Junshi has also granted Coherus options for JS006 (an anti-TIGIT antibody) and JS018-1 (a next-generation engineered IL-2 cytokine) as well as right of first negotiation on two early-stage checkpoint inhibitor antibodies.
A rolling submission of the Biologics License Application (BLA) for toripalimab to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of recurrent or metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma (“NPC”) was initiated in March.
There is currently an excess of PD-1/PD-L1 monoclonal antibody developers in China, so the competition is fierce. Eight have already been launched, and 54 entered clinical development by the end of January 2021.
Entering new markets like North America and Europe therefore amounts to sound strategy for Junshi. In fact, domestic PD-1 monoclonal antibody developers often go this route. BeiGene and Innovent, for instance, have licensed their products to Novartis and Eli Lilly, respectively.