AbbVie has officially distanced itself from I-Mab, withdrawing from a once-promising collaboration focused on the anti-CD47 antibody lemzoparlimab, leaving I-Mab to reassess its potential $1.3 billion in milestones. This decision marks a significant shift in the CD47 field, which had witnessed heightened interest and substantial investments.
The initial agreement saw AbbVie securing the rights to lemzoparlimab outside China during a period of heightened interest in CD47, committing to an upfront payment of $180 million and potential milestones surpassing $1.7 billion. This deal materialized shortly after Gilead Sciences invested a hefty $4.9 billion in Forty Seven. However, evolving developments have cast shadows on the once-luminous prospects of the immuno-oncology target CD47, leading to AbbVie’s phased withdrawal from lemzoparlimab.
In a sequence of decisive moves last summer, AbbVie halted a lemzoparlimab trial for multiple myeloma and another for patients with myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myelocytic leukemia. Despite the rearranged deal valued at $1.3 billion in milestones, no fresh trials emerged beyond China’s borders.
Last week saw AbbVie formally communicate its intention to end the license and collaboration agreement with I-Mab. This development, as per I-Mab, stems from prior program discontinuation and a strategic reassessment by AbbVie. Consequently, I-Mab will retain full global rights and preserve the $200 million previously received from AbbVie, inclusive of the $180 million upfront.
I-Mab, however, remains optimistic about lemzoparlimab’s prospects within China, initiating a Phase 3 clinical trial for patients diagnosed with higher-risk myelodysplastic syndrome earlier this year. This keeps I-Mab in contention to potentially become the first to introduce a CD47 drug in the Chinese market, as it meticulously reviews data for additional avenues.
The reversion of rights to I-Mab reopens possibilities for business development teams to explore CD47, though the prevailing interest in this asset remains uncertain. A diverse set of companies, including Gilead, had shown keen interest in Forty Seven’s CD47 asset magrolimab towards the close of 2019. However, ensuing safety concerns and questions over efficacy have injected a sense of caution and reconsideration into the landscape.