I-Mab Enters US Market as First Chinese Biotech Offering in Two Years
Investors look to the clincial stage cancer-fighting company as a potential bellwether for future Chinese biotech listings in New York.
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Gregory Bergman
Jan 17,2020,20:00

This morning, the first biotech initial public offering of 2020 took center stage on the Nasdaq with the immunology-focused biopharmaceutical company I-Mab (Nasdaq: IMAB) offering 7.4 million American depositary shares at $14 apiece in what was also the first Chinese biotech IPO in New York since 2017.

Investors from Beijing to Brooklyn are keeping a close watch on the market debut of this clinical stage biopharma company with global plans which today raised $103.7 million. The underwriters may acquire an additional 1.1 million ADSs in case of over-allotment, which would bring the proceeds of I-Mab to about $119.3 million.

I-Mab chose to list on the Nasdaq Global Market over other exchanges, citing the sophistication of the investors and their understanding of innovative medical science. The company believes that its deep pipeline, late stage clinical programs and novel science makes it an ideal addition to the exchange.

Today, I-Mab became the first U.S. listing by a Chinese biotech company since Zai Lab Ltd.’s (Nasdaq: ZLAB) $173 million offering in 2017, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg. Since 2004, only five biotech firms from the mainland have completed IPOs in the U.S.In March 2019, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) recognized I-Mab among the top 10 immuno-oncology startups in the world, the sole China-based company to make the list. Also, market research firm Frost & Sullivan ranked it as a top clinical stage immunology player in China.

The company, which began as a five-member startup in 2014 as Third Venture Biopharma (Nanjing) Co. Ltd., enters the public markets today buoyed by rapid growth and a robust product pipeline. I-Mab is led by an international team of more than 200 employees with expertise in immunology, clinical development, regulatory affairs and CMC, and with offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Rockville, Maryland.

I-Mab’s accelerated growth is due to the focus and vision of Jingwu Zang, MD, Ph.D., I-Mab’s Founder and Honorary Chairman, who will ring the closing bell at the Nasdaq MarketSite in Times Square on Friday. From the beginning, Dr. Zang set out to create a “truly global biopharmaceutical company”. Today marks a critical step forward in realizing that ambitious vision.

The Flagship Drug Candidate - TJ202

Boasting a host of drug candidates in the pipeline, I-Mab's lead drug candidate, TJ202, is a differentiated CD38 antibody that is currently undergoing evaluation in two registrational trials as a third-line monotherapy and a second-line combination therapy to treat multiple myeloma in Taiwan, according to the company.

I-Mab has received investigational new drug (IND) approval from China's National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) for conducting the same trials in multiple myeloma in China. The company also plans to launch a Phase 1b trial for TJ202 in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 2020, following an IND approval by the NMPA.

I-Mab owns an exclusive license to develop TJ202 in Greater China. The drug is believed to be highly differentiated compared with the currently marketed CD38 antibody for two fundamental reasons: One, under a similar pre-medication condition with dexamethasone, anti-pyretics and anti-histamines, TJ202 has demonstrated a significantly shorter infusion time and lower infusion reaction rate; and two, unlike the currently marketed CD38 antibody, TJ202 does not down-regulate CD38 expression on the surface of bone marrow myeloma cells in vitro, maintaining sensitivity of myeloma cells to TJ202 for repeated treatments.

Additional Product Portfolio

I-Mab has 5 investigational drugs in its China portfolio prepared for release in the near-term that have met endpoints in Phase 1 or Phase 2 clinical trials in Europe and the United States and are undergoing Phase 2 or Phase 3 clinical trials. They are TJ202, TJ301, TJ107, enoblituzumab and TJ101.

Within I-Mab’s global portfolio, TJC4, a differentiated CD47 antibody is of particular interest.  I-Mab has designed a monoclonal antibody that in early development has shown high antibody binding affinity, potent anti-tumor efficacy in preclinical studies and, importantly, minimal binding to red blood cells. If the data continue to be supportive and TJC4 does yield an improved safety profile, this could position I-Mab’s CD47 antibody quite favorably. TJC4 is currently being investigated in two Phase 1 clinical studies in both the U.S. and China. Data is expected later this year.

Targeting a Growing Market

The market of immuno-oncology and autoimmune biologics therapies in China holds tremendous potential for development. Cancer is the leading cause of death in the country – for 2018, BioMed Central cited an estimated 4.3 million new cancer cases and 2.9 million cancer deaths. According to the BMC report, China has lower cancer incidence than the United States and the United Kingdom but cancer mortality rates that are 30% and 40% higher, respectively.

There is high demand for effective treatment while, traditionally, the country lacks access to global innovative medicines, including immuno-oncology therapies like the U.S.-approved antibody drugs.

That is where I-Mab steps in.

Key Strategic Partnerships

I-Mab has established more than 10 global and regional partnerships with reputable pharma or biotech companies from 2016 to 2019. Signaling out I-Mab among numerous China-based competitors, the company stands to benefit from additional co-development opportunities to share costs and risks, as well as to gain territorial commercial rights with its partners.

In the past two years, I-Mab has out-licensed three de-prioritized assets and initiated four co-development programs with partners including ABL Bio and WuXi Biologics.

The company expects revenue from out-licensing and co-development deals to continue to grow as its pipeline progresses

Future of I-Mab Post-IPO

With global expansion plans, I-Mab looks to expand particularly in the United States by advancing its own differentiated biologics towards U.S. clinical validation. Looking to leverage the FDA’s streamlined regulatory system, the company is seeking proof-of-concept for its drug candidates in the U.S. by conducting early-phase clinical trials.

“We are uniquely positioned to leverage the strengths, expertise and scientific knowledge of both the Chinese and U.S. markets and, as part of our plan, we are embarking on our next stage of growth with the expansion of our footprint in the U.S. and a focus on the execution of key clinical trials in both the U.S. and China,” Neil Warma, the General Manager of I-Mab U.S., told CapitalWatch in October.

Also, in the near term, the company may out-license the global rights (excluding Greater China) of certain of its investigational drugs following clinical validation in the U.S., while retaining the Greater China rights for further development and commercialization.

Seeking to strengthen its position in the immense healthcare market in China and the dynamic biotech environment in the United States, I-Mab hopes the IPO can provide the capital it needs to further accelerate its impressive growth.

Warma continued, “Being able to combine and share our knowledge and execution of global drug development worldwide should deliver significant value for our shareholders and importantly, deliver novel drug to patients worldwide.”

Investors today – and in weeks and months to come – will be eyeing I-Mab as a bellwether for the future of Chinese biotech IPOs in New York. As only the second Chinese IPO to list in the United States in two years, a healthy diagnosis of this cancer-fighting company by the U.S. markets might go a long way in treating a suffering pipeline.

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