Abpro and China's NJCTTQ Ink $4 Billion Development Deal
Using two proprietary platforms, DiversImmune and Multimab, Abpro develops therapeutic antibody candidates. So far, it has used DiversImmune to create antibodies for more than 300 unique targets for biopharma companies. The Multimab bispecific platform allows for the assembly of the antibodies into a variety of bi- and multi-specific antibody formats. Internally, it has developed a pipeline of seven novel immuno-oncology candidates, including best-in-class T-cell engagers and programs in ophthalmology and autoimmunity.
Under the terms of the deal, Abpro is eligible for up to $4 billion in various milestones and royalties, including $60 million in near-term research-and-development funding. Abpro will retain commercial rights to any molecules that get approved in territories outside of China and Thailand. NJCTTQ will hold Chinese rights. The two companies will collaborate on preclinical and clinical development efforts as well as commercialization efforts.
“This collaboration further validates our platform’s unique ability to develop best-in-class bispecific T-cell engagers, with significant potential to treat patients living with cancer,” stated Ian Chan, executive chairman and co-founder of Abpro. “NJCTTQ has substantial clinical development and commercialization expertise that is highly complementary to our immuno-oncology development platforms as we focus on broadening our pipeline and expanding our ability to treat more patients globally. Our ex-China commercial rights have the potential to generate significant long-term value for our company.”
Chan went on to say that the company plans to develop other collaborations in key global markets.
In 2016, Abpro partnered with another Chinese company, Essex Bio. In that deal, it picked up $3.5 million to develop antibodies for cancer and ophthalmology diseases.
Abpro has also had deals with Eli Lilly and Sanofi Genzyme. In 2016, it launched a spinout, AbMed, with AstraZeneca’s biologics unit MedImmune.
The deal is a good example of how Chinese companies and investors are putting a lot of money into U.S. biopharma companies. It’s something that the U.S. government has expressed some concerns over. In 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) launched a pilot program to provide more oversight over foreign investors in more than two dozen business sectors, including biotech and technology.
Bob Coughlin, chief executive officer of MassBio, a trade group, told the Boston Business Journal last year, “The CFIUS pilot program is creating a huge amount of uncertainty for biotechs and its investors.” The concern is the oversight will slow or end the foreign investment. It does not seem to have had an effect on Abpro.
Under the program, any foreign individual or firm investing in more than two dozen industries is required to file with the government and is open to review. It also applies to venture capital. Before the CFIUS pilot program, the federal government only reviews financing that gave an investor control of a company.
Rich Matheny, who head’s Goodwin Procter LLP’s Global Trade practice, told the Boston Business Journal, “It hasn’t been said explicitly, but this is really an attempt to counter (China’s) proposal in the Made in China 2025 plan, which seems to achieve technological competency, if not dominance, across 10 industry sectors.”
Those sectors include robotics, aerospace and aeronautical equipment, biopharma and advanced medical products, among others. The Made in China 2025 plan has a goal of helping China hit 70 percent “self-sufficiency” in high-tech industries by 2025.