Adagene, Sanofi ink $2.5b deal for cancer solutions

China's Adagene Inc, a Nasdaq-listed innovative biopharmaceutical company focusing on discovery and development of antibody-based novel cancer immunotherapy, announced collaboration and inked an exclusive license agreement with Sanofi for $2.5 billion on Wednesday, the company said.

According to the deal, Adagene will authorize its core technology to Sanofi and help it create new medicines. The potential transaction value to be seen through such cooperation between the domestic biopharmaceutical enterprise with its partner hit a record in its field, said industry insiders.

"Original biopharmaceutical developments from China are attracting rising international attention, and new drugs that can truly solve unmet clinical medical needs will always be the pursuit of innovation," Luo Peizhi, co-founder and CEO of Adagene, said during an exclusive interview with China Daily.

The agreement said Adagene, founded in Suzhou, Jiangsu province in 2012, will be responsible for early-stage research activities to develop versions of Sanofi candidate antibodies, using Adagene's proprietary technology. Sanofi will be responsible for later-stage research and clinical, product development and commercialization activities.

"We look forward to working with Adagene to design antibodies that can help us bring transformative new medicines to people living with cancer," said Valeria Fantin, global head of oncology research at Sanofi.

"Adagene's antibody platform is expected to help us precisely target established, but poorly addressed oncology mechanisms with best-in-class medicines," she said.

Luo said the proprietary technology is a precision antibody masking platform designed to enable the antibody to bind to its target specifically only after conditional activation of the antibody in target tissues.

By engineering and developing therapeutic antibody candidates to selectively activate in the tumor microenvironment, the platform is designed to improve safety and tolerability of antibody therapeutics while maintaining clinical activity.

"This core technology from us has been proven through extensive preclinical and clinical data. So far, a very limited number of companies can develop and apply such technology with clinically validated efficacy," Luo said.

Raymond Tam, chief financial officer of Adagene, said the company's gains from the authorization are fairly competitive in terms of both upfront fees and total potential milestone payments. The company will also get tiered royalties on future global net sales, he said.

Industry observers said that China is expected to enter the world's first echelon in new drug research and development within the next decade, and multinational pharmaceutical giants are deepening collaboration with local players in recent years.

The United States Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved CAR-T, a tumor immunotherapy, to treat adults with multiple myeloma. The medicine was a potentially best-in-class innovative tumor drug developed by Nanjing-based Legend Biotech. Later, Janssen Pharmaceutical joined in its development.

Last month, US-based Eli Lilly, which reached deals with more than 10 Chinese pharmaceutical enterprises in clinical development projects among others over the past decade, established its China innovation incubation platform in Shanghai's Zhangjiang High-Tech Park to join hands with more partners to create original medications from local sources.

Editor: Li Shimeng
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