I-Mab in talks about deals, stake sale to build on $3B AbbVie alliance — Bloomberg
A year after I-Mab made headlines with its $2.9 billion deal licensing a CD47 drug to AbbVie, the Chinese biotech is reportedly holding early talks with global pharma players about partnerships and potential investment.
The Shanghai-based, Nasdaq-listed company is mulling “clinical and commercial cooperation in China and a potential equity stake sale,” Bloomberg reported, quoting people familiar with the matter. Both US and European drugmakers are among the suitors involved in preliminary discussions.
I-Mab did not respond to a request for comment. For anyone who’s been following the company, though, it wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Under founder and chairman Jingwu Zang — who had helmed GlaxoSmithKline’s China R&D ops until he was dismissed amid a scandal — I-Mab has been clear about wanting to lead among a growing pack of Chinese companies that believe they have a role to play on the global stage. Not only does I-Mab have an office in Maryland to oversee clinical trial work, it also divides its pipeline into two portfolios: China and global.
As Big Pharma increasingly looks to China as a source of new drugs, domestic drugmakers from Innovent and BeiGene to Legend and CStone have also scored high-profile partnerships (with Eli Lilly, Amgen, J&J and Pfizer, respectively) that come in a variety of forms.
When it emerged that AbbVie was paying $180 million to grab lemzoparlimab and first dibs to other related antibodies, Zang pointed to the pharma giant’s interest in immuno-oncology, clinical development expertise and antibody manufacturing savviness as the main draws to the alliance.
“For us this is not just a one-time deal,” he told Endpoints News at the time. “This is the beginning of a series of validation, global deals we are expecting in the next few years.”
For AbbVie, it was a ticket into the steaming-hot CD47 space, which has only gotten more attention since following Pfizer’s $2.3 billion buyout of Trillium.
According to the Bloomberg report, I-Mab is seeking a partner to jointly develop the CD73 antibody uliledlimab, in hopes of replicating the success of the AbbVie pact.
It’s clearly not just money Zang is after. Already boasting nearly $5 billion in market cap on Nasdaq, the company is in the process of pursuing a dual listing on Shanghai’s STAR board.