Pan Orion Invests $415M in Korean Biotech LegoChem, Secures Majority Stake

Pictured: Handshake over a deal/iStock, PeopleImag

Pictured: Handshake over a deal/iStock, PeopleImag

The snacks and confectionery giant has been seeking to enter the biopharmaceuticals space in recent years.

Pictured: Businessmen shaking hands after closing a deal/iStock, PeopleImages

Korean food and healthcare firm Pan Orion Corp on Monday dropped approximately $415.6 million to buy a 25% stake in Korean biotech LegoChem Biosciences, according to local news outlet The Chosun Daily.

The transaction, which LegoChem disclosed to investors through Monday’s regulatory filing, makes Orion the largest shareholder of the antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) developer. According to Chosun Daily, Orion carried the purchase out through a Hong Kong-based subsidiary and the companies expect to close the deal on March 29.

Once finalized, LegoChem will become part of Orion’s corporate family but will retain its current frameworks and management.

LegoChem’s core technology—dubbed ConjuALL—gives its ADC therapies a “trinity of improved properties,” according to the biotech’s website. The platform allows for the stable conjugation of the payload at a specific site, overcoming the typically random attachment that is typical in other ADCs, the company contends. The platform also enables the cancer-selective activation of both the linker and the toxic payload.

Several other companies have also bought into the promise of ConjuAll. In December 2023, the Korean biotech announced that it signed a $1.7 billion license agreement with J&J’s subsidiary Janssen to develop an anti-Trop2 ADC.

Dubbed LCB84, the investigational ADC has a “distinctive targeted mechanism,” binding to a specific cleaved form of Trop2, which is typically present in high amounts in cancer cells, according to LegoChem’s news release at the time. The partners would collaborate on LCD84’s Phase I/II study, while Janssen would be solely responsible for its clinical development and commercialization.

That same month, LegoChem also entered into a research and license pact with Amgen, which gave the pharma access to its proprietary platform to design, develop and potentially commercialize ADCs for up to five targets. Considering the upfront payment and all milestones under the deal, LegoChem is eligible to receive up to $1.25 billion plus royalties.

LegoChem’s most recent partner, Orion, is best known as a snacks and confectionery giant, but in recent years has sought to expand into healthcare and biopharmaceuticals, according to a Monday report from The Korea Economic Daily. In 2022, for instance, the company established Orion Biologics, which is focused on developing treatments for dental diseases.

In 2023, Orion attempted to acquire a stake in Alteogen, another Korean biopharma, but that deal fell apart before being completed.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

Correction (January 17): A previous version of this article mistook the Korean Pan Orion Corp for the Finnish group Orion. The story has been recast to rectify the mistake. BioSpace deeply regrets the error.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Reach out to him on LinkedIn or email him at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.
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