Biopharma giant AbbVie has announced it intends to terminate its cancer drug deal with I-Mab, the creators of lemzoparlimab. The original deal granted AbbVie the right to distribute and co-develop the drug outside of mainland China, where I-Mab is based. It is currently in testing for myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myelocytic leukaemia, both blood cancers.

The original deal closed in 2020, with an upfront payment by AbbVie of $200m, with up to $1.74bn in milestone payments should the drug continue to progress in clinical trials. The rationale is not yet known, but it follows the company cancelling an early-stage study in August of last year despite the Phase II results that were later released suggesting a promising safety and efficacy profile.

Lemzoparlimab, in combination with azacytidine, entered Phase III trials in China as a treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome in April of this year, raising questions as to the timing of this announcement. However, Globaldata forecasts that the drug will only see around $650m in sales between 2024 and 2029. If AbbVie have similar internal estimates, the company may have decided that the value proposition is not in their favour.

I-Mab is currently struggling financially, posting a loss of $373m in 2022 according to GlobalData, though they remain confident in their product line-up and maintain strong cash reserves.

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