China's I-Mab Said to be Seeking Biopharma Partnerships, Possible Equity Sale


Rumors of potential deals and acquisitions continue to swirl around biopharma this week, and today’s conjecture involves a major Chinese biotechnology company called I-Mab.

According to a report published Wednesday morning in Bloomberg, Shanghai-based I-Mab, which plays in the immuno-oncology and immuno-inflammation space through its internal R&D capabilities and global partnerships, is looking for more of those. 

According to people familiar with the matter, I-Mab is engaged in early talks with large U.S. and European biopharmaceutical companies about partnerships and investments as it weighs its strategic options. Sources added that the company is conducting a review that could lead to clinical and commercial cooperation in China and a potential equity stake sale.

The news sparked a mini-surge in shares of I-Mab, which were up 7.8% in pre-market U.S. trading on September 28. The stock was down, however, in pre-marketing trading Wednesday morning. I-Mab, which is traded on the Nasdaq, has climbed to a market value of $5.4 billion following an almost 50% surge this year. The company’s stock has risen by approximately 9.04% during the past 30 days.

I-Mab is also pursuing a dual listing on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style exchange. The company has an extensive pipeline of drugs in various stages of development. An asset of attraction in the early-stage talks could be Uliledlimab, or TJD5, a humanized inhibitory monoclonal antibody against human CD73 expressed in tumors. The company is seeking a partner to jointly develop the drug in the U.S. and Europe.

The sources, who asked not to be named due to confidentiality, said that I-Mab is seeking a licensing deal along the lines of the $2.9 billion deal it struck with AbbVie in September 2020. The global collaboration agreement gave AbbVie the exclusive right to co-develop and commercialize lemzoparlimab (also known as TJC4), an anti-CD47 monoclonal antibody discovered and initially developed by I-Mab that is currently in Phase II development for the treatment of various cancers.

Potential contenders looking to expand in the oncology space include Pfizer, which spent $2.26 billion in August to acquire the remaining shares it did not yet own of Trillium Therapeutics, a biotech developing a new set of checkpoint inhibitors. Amgen also has a track record of investing and partnering with Chinese companies. The company took a 20.5% (approximately $2.7 billion) stake in BeiGene late in 2019. The two planned to collaborate on 20 drugs from Amgen’s oncology pipeline in China and globally.

BioSpace previously reported that Merck & Co., Gilead Sciences and Roche were also in the market to gain potential blockbuster drugs through acquisitions. Merck, however, has emerged as the leader in advanced talks to acquire Acceleron Pharma. Merck has been on a buying spree the past 12 months, acquiring OncoImmune in November 2020 for $425 million in cash. Also, in November, Merck picked up VelosBio and its promising receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor 1 (ROR1) Inhibitor in a $2.75 billion deal.

I-Mab responded to BioSpace’s request for comment saying that they had none. 

Back to news