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NiKang licenses drug in China for $15M

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WILMINGTON – The private biopharmaceutical startup NiKang Therapeutics announced Tuesday that it has signed a licensing agreement for one of its small-molecule therapy drugs in China, marking its second such commercial deal.

NiKang struck the deal with Shanghai-based multinational biopharmaceutical company Hansoh Pharma, which it has collaborated with in the past.

Under the terms of the agreement, NiKang will receive an upfront cash payment of $15 million and will be eligible to receive up to $203 million in potential development, regulatory and sales-based milestone payments along with tiered royalties. Hansoh will be responsible for all the development costs in greater China for the drug known as NKT2152 and will receive the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize NKT2152 in the region, which includes Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

The drug is a small-molecule inhibitor that began Phase 1/2 medical trials in November for patients with advanced clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), a type of kidney cancer. NiKang also entered into clinical trial collaboration and supply agreements with Boston-based publicly traded biopharma firm AVEO Oncology and pharma giant Pfizer on NKT2152 in the past six months.

The firms will evaluate the effectiveness of NKT2152 in combination with AVEO’s Fotivda, an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) known generically as tivozanib that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in treatment of some cases of kidney cancer, and Pfizer’s inhibitors palbociclib and sasanlimab used in the the treatment of advanced ccRCC.

Under those agreements, NiKang will sponsor the trials, AVEO and Pfizer will co-fund them, and respective drugs will be provided at no cost, with each forming Joint Development Committees to oversee the collaborations.

“Hansoh is a leader in the development and commercialization of small molecules for the treatment of cancer in China. We are thrilled to collaborate with them to strategically advance NKT2152 and expand its reach as a potential treatment for multiple tumor types,” said Zhenhai Gao, co-founder, president and CEO of NiKang, in a statement announcing the deal. “By combining NiKang’s precision oncology expertise with Hansoh’s proven development and commercialization capabilities in Greater China, we believe that we will be able to accelerate global development of NKT2152 and bring it as a potential novel cancer treatment to China patients sooner.”

In 2020, NiKang also signed a deal with Hansoh to develop its preclinical small molecule drug NKT1992 to treat viral infections in China. That deal could be worth up to $100 million if fully developed with added tiered royalties if commercialized.

“We are excited to enter into this agreement and we look forward to working with NiKang, a leader in developing innovative small molecule oncology medicines,” said Yuan Sun, executive director of the board of Hansoh Pharma, in a statement. “HIF2α plays an important role in the development and progression of kidney and other cancers. Based on the sound biology, excellent potency and [pharmacokinetic] profile observed in preclinical studies, we believe NKT2152 has the potential to become a best-in-class molecule to address this important pathway. Our extensive expertise in oncology drug development can help accelerate development and advance NKT2152 as quickly as possible for cancer patients in China.”

NiKang has quietly become one of the most intriguing biopharma startups in Delaware, having raised a $200 million Series C financing round, one of the largest such venture capital fundraisings in Delaware in recent memory and among the largest in the greater Philadelphia area last year. It’s based at the Delaware Innovation Space at the DuPont Experimental Station, where it continues to innovate new drugs.

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