China's Zai Lab spins 2 more licensing deals, including a sudden dive into neuroscience
China cancer specialist Zai Lab has made its name in-licensing Western drugs and using its deep knowledge of the East Asian market to churn out results. The biotech has now signed two more licensing deals for a trio of drugs, including a very sudden jump into the neuroscience space.
First, Zai Lab inked a deal Tuesday with Karuna Therapeutics for rights in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to KarXT, an investigational M1/M4-preferring muscarinic agonist being tested to treat a variety of psychiatric conditions.
Zai Lab will shell out $35 million upfront in this one with the potential for an additional $80 million in development and regulatory milestones and $72 million in sales milestones on top of royalties.
Karuna is evaluating KarXT in a slate of late-stage trials to treat schizophrenia and psychosis in Alzheimer’s patients with two Phase III studies for the schizophrenia program expected to readout in 2022. Meanwhile, the company is set to begin an additional Phase III trial looking at KarXT as an adjunct therapy for previously treated adults by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, an upcoming Phase III study for KarXT in psychosis in Alzheimer’s is set to kick off by mid-2022.
The deal is significant in that it represents Zai Lab’s first foray into neuroscience, another branching out for the cancer specialist. In a statement, CEO Samantha Du had this to say about why her team decided to make the leap:
Our collaboration with Karuna is a significant milestone for Zai Lab, marking the expansion and diversification of our development and commercial portfolio into neuroscience, our fourth therapeutic area. KarXT is well positioned to serve as the anchor asset in our new neuroscience franchise. Zai Lab’s mission is to deliver innovative medicines to address unmet medical needs of patients, and we look forward to working with Karuna to bring KarXT to patients in need in Greater China as soon as possible.
In a second pact signed Tuesday, Zai Lab will pay $25 million upfront and a potential additional $590 million in downstream milestones for rights to Blueprint Medicines’ investigational EGFR TKI inhibitors BLU-945 and BLU-701 in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, the companies said Tuesday.
Both drugs are being developed specifically to target drug resistant mutations in EGFR-positive lung cancer patients who do not respond to other EGFR inhibitors. BLU-945 specifically targets the T790M and C797S and mutations while BLU-701 targets C797S with preclinical models showing a high degree of CNS penetration, potentially making it a good option for patients with brain metastases.
Zai Lab sees these drugs as potential first-in-class options in China for EGFR-positive NSCLC patients whose disease progresses with other EGFR inhibitors, and Blueprint is using the deal as part of a global clinical effort to see both drugs reach approval in China and elsewhere.
If either drug does get approved in China, Blueprint will be due tiered royalties in the “low teens to mid-teens.”