Yuhan Corp., one of South Korea’s leading pharmaceutical companies, announced on March 2 that the company entered into an agreement with U.S.-based bioventure firm Sorrento Therapeutics Inc. to form a joint venture company (JVC), ImmuneOncia Therapeutics, LLC, with a view to developing immune-checkpoint monoclonal antibodies against undisclosed targets for both hematological malignancies and solid tumors. The formation of ImmuneOncia marks an important milestone in enhancing the presence of both companies in the field of immuno-oncology.
According to a recent study, the annual market for immunotherapies, consisting of anti-checkpoint antibodies, vaccines, and cell therapies, will exceed $35 billion while becoming the mainstream treatment for more than 60 percent of cancers over the next decade.
Lee Chung-hee, President of Yuhan, said the JVC will be the pioneer in the research and development of immune checkpoint monoclonal antibodies and pave the way to transform the paradigm of cancer treatment.
ImmuneOncia will be built on Sorrento's leading immunotherapy product portfolio as well as its manufacturing capabilities. The joint venture will also take advantage of Yuhan's world-class R&D capabilities.
“Yuhan is committing significant resources to ImmuneOncia for the development of novel cancer immunotherapies, an area with a significantly unmet need not just in Korea but overseas markets. Yuhan will invest in Sorrento and its innovative immuno-oncology mAb portfolio, and look forward to working closely with Sorrento's outstanding team as well as further expanding our strategic relationship together,” said Mr. Jung Hee Lee, president and CEO of Yuhan.
Yuhan will invest $10 million to own a 51 percent stake in ImmuneOncia Therapeutics, LLC whereas Sorrento will obtain the remaining 49 percent. ImmuneOncia’s board of directors will have five members, three of whom will be chosen by Yuhan, including the president.
“We are excited to work with Yuhan in jointly established ImmuneOncia,” said Dr. Henry Ji, president and CEO of Sorrento. “We will develop a deep pipeline of immuno-oncology products for cancer patients worldwide.”
Sorrento Therapeutics is a NASDAQ-listed firm which is dedicated to developing cancer immunotherapy treatments. It has diverse portfolio in the area of immune checkpoint monoclonal antibodies.
Under the agreement, ImmuneOncia Therapeutics would own an exclusive license for the first of the three immune checkpoint antibodies for distribution in countries excluding the U.S., Europe and Japan and hold global-wide licensing right for two subsequent antibodies. The first immune checkpoint antibody will go through clinical trials in the second half of next year.