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HLB seeks new pipelines by taking over US biotech firm
  • By Jeong Sae-im
  • Published 2020.02.21 15:42
  • Updated 2020.02.22 12:38
  • comments 0

HLB, a Kosdaq-listed firm, said it would seek to secure new pipelines other than rivoceranib, the investigational cancer drug, to raise its corporate value as a new drug developer.

Recently, the company took over a U.S. biotech firm to own new anticancer pipelines and is seeking to own additional experimental drugs.

HLB said on Wednesday that it would participate in the three-party capital increase of Immunomic Therapeutics and acquire 6 million shares (38.2 percent) of the biotech firm for 35.6 billion won ($29.5 million).

HLB plans to acquire a 51 percent stake, including friendly shares, of Immunomic Therapeutics to put it under its arms. Two or three domestic listed firms were reportedly participating in the investment.

Founded in 2006 in Maryland, Immunomic Therapeutics has developed an immune platform technology called “Universal Intracellular Targeted Expression” (UNITE) based on technologies from Johns Hopkins University and Duke University. UNITE is a next-generation vaccine platform technology that enhances cytotoxic T cell function by targeting specific antigens to lysosomes to increase antigen presentation ability. The technology is known to have high expandability in cancer and allergies.

Immunomic Therapeutics licensed out an allergy treatment technology, using UNITE, to Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma in 2015. The company received $315 million for an upfront payment.

Astellas is testing the therapy against peanut and pollen allergies in clinical trials. If it successfully commercializes it, Immunomic Therapeutics will receive more than 10 percent of sales as royalties.

Immunomic Therapeutics also licensed out a vaccine for animal allergy to Zenoaq, a Japanese animal health firm.

Immunomic Therapeutics is working on eight oncology pipelines. Among them, a new drug candidate for treating glioblastoma (malignant brain tumor) demonstrated a 40-month median overall survival (mOS) and a 35 percent survival rate in a phase-1 study, versus the existing drug’s 14.6-month mOS and less than 5 percent five-year survival rate. The candidate is undergoing a phase-2 trial.

HLB has been preparing to grow into a new drug developer since last year to shed off its image of merely investing in pharmaceutical firms. As part of such efforts, the company merged with its subsidiary LSK BioPharma, now Elevar, last year and Immunomic Therapeutics this year.

“Due to the limitation that we had only one new drug candidate, rivoceranib, the company was easily shaken by a trivial but malicious rumor,” HLB Chairman Jin Yang-gon said. “By acquiring Immunomic Therapeutics, we can overcome the limitation.”

HLB said it planned to list Immunomic Therapeutics either on Nasdaq or Kosdaq, and accelerate clinical trials on pipelines of Immunomic to commercialize them fast.

“By acquiring a company with a strong immunotherapy platform technology, we gained globally competitive pipelines, highly skilled researchers, and diverse R&D experience,” said Ahn Ki-hong, vice president of HLB.

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