China’s I-Mab allegedly seeking asset or company sale

Shanghai-based I-Mab is in talks with global drugmakers about a potential sale of the whole company or its oncological assets, according to a Bloomberg article.

The Bloomberg article claims US and EU pharmas were interested in I-Mab, given its portfolio of 10 clinical stage oncology antibodies plus access to the world’s second largest pharmaceutical market.

Bloomberg noted that I-Mab has lost three-fourths of its market value since the prices for pharmaceutical companies peaked in June 2021. When it announced its 2021 year-end results, I-Mab reported $671 million in cash. Combined with expected milestone payments, I-Mab said it has enough capital to fund operations through 2025.

Image StockPhotoSecrets

Last fall, Bloomberg published a similar story about an I-Mab deal, saying the company could out-license an asset or seek a direct investment in the company. At the time, it did not mention a sale of the whole company. After the latest story broke, I-Mab’s NASDAQ-listed ADRs jumped 18% on the news. The company has a market capitalization of $1.3 billion.

I-Mab does have a potential problem with its US listing. The US has threatened to de-list all foreign based companies that do not open their books to US auditors, a move that is directed primarily at China based companies.

Until now, China has forbidden China companies from letting foreign representatives audit their finances, citing national security concerns. The country’s authorities have promised to revamp the policy, giving auditors full access to financial data while excluding only matter that directly affects national security. So far, US authorities have taken a wait-and-see attitude to the changes.

Unlike most China biopharmas with a US listing, I-Mab is listed only in the US. It has filed for a Shanghai STAR Board listing, but the market for biopharma IPOs has deteriorated greatly over the past year.

I-Mab deals

In 2020, I-Mab announced a blockbuster $2 billion deal with AbbVie ($150 million upfront) for global ex-China rights to I-Mab’s anti-CD47 mAb. The agreement included options on two other anti-CD47 molecules for another billion dollars.

Earlier this year, the company partnered with Hangzhou Qiantang New Area to build a manufacturing facility for its transition to commercialization. I-Mab Hangzhou’s initial product will be felzartamab, an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody that has completed Phase III trials as a third-line treatment for multiple myeloma.

The following is more of the 2021 year-end review that I-Mab provided for its shareholders:

  • Twenty key clinical milestones, including positive data readouts for lemzoparlimab, uliledlimab and felzartamab
  • Seven business development deals, including a $315 million strategic commercial partnership with Jumpcan on eftansomatropin alfa
  • Global pipeline includes 10 clinical stage assets, mostly in Phase II and Phase III clinical trials, and 10 pre-clinical programs
  • Accelerated development of lemzoparlimab with respect to its expected safety profile and encouraging efficacy signals in multiple clinical trials
  • Expected pipeline progress to include 3 to 4 registrational trials, 11 Phase II and 3 Phase I clinical trials by the end of 2022.
  • Expected BLA or product launch in 2023 – 2025 to include felzartamab, eftansomatropin alfa and potentially lemzoparlimab with a possible addition of a pre-BLA product to be in-licensed

This story was first published in ChinaBio Today on April 22