Incyte flips China rights of MacroGenics' PD-1 to an ambitious Zai Lab keen on leapfrogging pioneers with combos
Amid the proliferation of checkpoint inhibitors in China, Zai Lab is bringing in one more PD-1 agent in a move to install what has become an essential part of any immuno-oncology pipeline.
Originally developed by MacroGenics and now controlled by Incyte, INCMGA0012 is in Zai Lab’s view a globally competitive asset that can stand as both a monotherapy and combination ingredient.
“The molecular profile is quite similar to Keytruda and Opdivo,” said Yongjiang Hei, Zai Lab’s CSO in oncology, on an investor call.
The first combo Zai Lab plans to test will feature margetuximab — a HER2 targeting drug in-licensed from MacroGenics for $25 million upfront. Having China rights to both assets will allow for smoother coordination in global and China studies, the company added.
Other possible combos involve Zejula, the PARP inhibitor from GSK’s Tesaro, in women’s cancer as well as lung and brain cancer. Zai Lab is also keen about combining a PD-1 with the switch kinase inhibitor ripretinib, for which it recently inked a deal with Deciphera.
PD-1 in China is a huge market worth up to $14.2 billion by 2030, Zai Lab said, and only $0.1 billion of that has been unlocked so far — leaving room for multiple winners.
Incyte — which paid $150 million upfront to bag 012 after its first PD-1 from China’s Hengrui experienced a safety issue — grabs an immediate $17.5 million from this deal, with development and sales milestones up to $60 million. The drugmaker is also retaining an option to co-promote with Zai Lab in China while letting the Chinese partner in on its ongoing global clinical trials.
“To us, from a BD perspective, this is a pretty established PD-1,” CEO Samantha Du said, highlighting the trials that Incyte has conducted.
Notably, Zai Lab’s development and commercial rights cover both oncology and hematology, though execs say they don’t currently have any plans on the latter.
A pioneer in the business of introducing Western drugs to China and designing clinical plans tailored for a domestic patient population, Zai Lab has also been ramping up internal discovery under new CSO Valeria Fantin.
While there are no existing PD-1/L1 assets in the portfolio, they might have bispecific antibodies involving a checkpoint, Du added.
Social image: Loncar Funds