Yuhan signs deal with Boehringer Ingelheim

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Yuhan signs deal with Boehringer Ingelheim

Yuhan has signed a technology transfer and drug-development deal with Boehringer Ingelheim worth up to $870 million.

The Kospi-listed Korean company announced in a statement Monday that it agreed to export technologies related to the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) to the Ingelheim am Rhein, Germany-based company. Under the terms of the deal, Yuhan is eligible to receive up to $830 million in milestone payments.

It will receive royalty payments based on net sales while paying 5 percent of total technology exports to Genexine, a Korean biotech company that helped Yuhan develop key technology.

The Korean pharmaceutical company is also receiving $40 million from the German drugmaker as a down payment. The contract covers sales anywhere outside Korea.

NASH, a syndrome that develops in non-alcoholic patients, causes liver damage traditionally indistinguishable from alcoholic hepatitis. It develops most commonly in patients with obesity, dyslipidemia and glucose intolerance.

The disease often starts with patients accumulating fat in their livers that causes inflammation and eventually lead to liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. Treatment options for NASH are currently limited, as no drug related to the syndrome has received regulatory approval in any jurisdiction.

As part of the deal, Yuhan will be providing the German pharmaceutical firm its expertise in developing a dual agonist that combines glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) into one molecule.

The dual agonist, developed in-house by Yuhan with help of protein fusion technology from Genexine, was found during pre-clinical research to reduce liver cell injury and hepatic inflammation and prevent scarring.

“We look forward to working jointly with Boehringer Ingelheim, with its strong track record of bringing new treatments to patients with cardiometabolic disease,” said Lee Jung Hee, CEO and President at Yuhan, in a statement.

“Not only is our collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim on this molecule Yuhan’s first external partnership with biologics, it is also the very first out-licensing of biologics targeting NASH from Korea.”

As it believes targeting a single feature of NASH would not be effective in treating the syndrome, Boehringer Ingelheim is partnering with Yuhan to build a comprehensive program that would target all three key drivers of the disease - steatosis, inflammation and fibrosis.

“We are excited about this new opportunity which adds to our longstanding and successful partnership with Yuhan Corporation,” said Clive R. Wood, corporate senior vice president at Boehringer Ingelheim.

Yuhan said it aims to start the first-stage clinical trials for a to-be-developed drug by late this year or early next year.

With the Monday announcement, Yuhan has concluded a total of four technology export agreements over the past year. It signed a $218-million licensing deal with U.S.-based Spine Biopharma for its degenerative disc treatment in July last year and signed a licensing and cooperation agreement valued up to $1.25 billion with Janssen Biotech for its Lazertinib lung cancer drug. Earlier this year, Yuhan entered an agreement with Foster City, California-based Gilead Sciences to co-develop treatments for NASH.

Through these four technology export deals, Yuhan has brought in more than 100 billion won ($86 million) in down payments, which is more than twice the amount it made in operating profit last year.

Yuhan closed up 2.86 percent in trading Monday.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]
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