Affibody Signs €208M Deal To Market Autoimmune Drug in China

affibody inmagene biopharmaceuticals

Swedish biotech Affibody and Chinese firm Inmagene Biopharmaceuticals will work together to develop and commercialize Affibody’s phase II-stage drug for autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis.

Under the agreement, Inmagene will commercialize Affibody’s treatment in the Greater China region and South Korea, as well as develop the drug in the Asia Pacific region excluding Japan.

Meanwhile, Affibody will be responsible for the manufacturing of the drug for development and commercialization worldwide and will retain global commercial rights outside of Greater China and South Korea. Affibody will receive a €9.2M upfront payment and could receive up to €198.8M in additional regulatory and sales milestones.

The two companies will work together to enroll patients in clinical trials and in some cases, share clinical trial costs. Inmagene could also receive payments and royalties from Affibody relating to undisclosed global development milestones.

At present, Affibody’s drug is being evaluated in a phase II trial among patients with moderate-to-severe psoriasis, but its mechanism of action – blocking the inflammatory protein interleukin (IL-)17 – means it could potentially be used to treat several other autoimmune diseases such as psoriatic arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis, and Bechet’s Disease.

The drug differs from other IL-17 inhibitors because it combines proprietary Affibody molecules with its Albumod technology. The Affibody molecules mimic antibodies but are much smaller and more potent, while Albumod technology extends the amount of time the molecules are active in the body.

Together, these features provide the potential for best-in-class efficacy in a convenient, less frequent, and at-home subcutaneous administration,” David Bejker, Affibody CEO, told me.

He added: “The key strength in having a small format and high potency is that it opens up the opportunity for better efficacy and more convenient administration of the drug without getting additional side effects.”

This deal follows swiftly after another Sweden-China biotech deal earlier this week. In this other deal, the Umeå-based Lipigon Pharmaceuticals partnered with the Chengdu-based HitGen to develop drugs for blood fat disorders.

European–Chinese collaborations such as this may be something we see a lot more of in the future.

European biotech companies are starting to benefit from increased interest from China ever since the US restricted Chinese investments. This, coupled with lower investment costs for European firms relative to US companies, makes Europe an attractive prospect for Chinese investors. 

Examples of Chinese companies pitching into European biotechs include a €13.2M investment raised by Italian biotech Genenta Science in September 2019, a €21M Series B round from the Swiss company Numab in March 2020, and an €8.3M round raised by UK biotech CN Bio, also in early March.

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