China, Deals

Chinese dealmaking: SARI nabs Italy’s NMS Group for $362M; Inovio retools deal with ApolloBio

Two biopharma deals involving Chinese companies were announced during the holidays, marking the beginning of what we expect will be a booming year for dealmaking in China.

SARI nabs cancer drugmaker in Italy for $362M

First, there was SARI, a Chinese biotech investment company that just snatched 90% interests in an Italian oncology company called NMS Group in a deal worth €300 million ($362 million). The deal was part equity injection and part debt restructuring, and is expected to close sometime in Q1.

Headquartered in Nerviano, near Milan, Italy, NMS is a group of companies focused on oncology drug discovery, preclinical research, clinical development and manufacturing.

“The Chinese market is large and growing, with many unmet needs,” said Yi Baxian, a representative of SARI, in a statement. “With our strong commercial capabilities and robust scientific reputation, we look forward to bringing the innovative drugs discovered in Nerviano to the large Chinese patient population, allowing them to improve their quality of life.”

Inovio restructures deal with ApolloBio

Inovio Pharmaceuticals, a biotech in Plymouth Meeting, PA, announced Tuesday that it was revamping its agreement with Chinese biomedical company ApolloBio Corporation.

The amended agreement, announced nearly a year ago, gives ApolloBio the exclusive right to develop and commercialization Inovio’s DNA immunotherapy product, called VGX-3100, in China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.

Joseph Kim

The changes to the deal include a heftier upfront payment of $23 million, increased from the previously announced $15 million. Milestone payments could reach an additional $20 million. But more significantly, the new deal lets ApolloBio ditch its former agreement to purchase $35 million in Inovio common stock. Back in February 2017, when this deal was first announced, ApolloBio said it would invest up to $35 million in common stock as soon as the FDA lifted its clinical hold on VGX-3100 (it was lifted in June 2017).

“We are pleased to move forward with an agreement that preserves the best interest for our shareholders by obtaining a greater upfront non-dilutive cash license fee of $23 million and removing the equity provisions,” said Joseph Kim, Inovio’s president and CEO, in a statement. “In addition, this collaborative agreement with ApolloBio could potentially accelerate our overall global VGX-3100 efforts by accessing clinical study patients in China.  We expect this deal to close in the first quarter of 2018.”

Deals in China on the rise

Here at Endpoints News, we expect to see more deals like the ones above in 2018 as biopharmas ride a wave of regulatory reform in China’s pharmaceutical sector. Recently, the China Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to accelerate new drug approvals. The reforms have triggered growing interest in China as a center for drug development, reflected in a wave of initial public offerings and licensing deals with foreign drug companies.


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