EQRx adds anti-PD-L(1) drugs to pipeline via deal with CStone

CStone Pharmaceuticals announced that it agreed to out-license certain rights to the anti-PD-L1 drug sugemalimab and the anti-PD-1 therapy CS1003 to EQRx for an upfront payment of $150 million. Under the deal, which covers markets outside of China, CStone is also eligible to receive up to $1.15 billion in milestone payments for both late-stage immuno-oncology drugs, as well as tiered royalties.

Specifically, EQRx will gain exclusive rights to lead global development and marketing activities for the drugs worldwide, excluding mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. CStone retains rights to CS1003 in these areas, where the Chinese company says it can continue to pursue development of the drug as monotherapy or as part of a combination.

Growing oncology pipeline

Alexis Borisy, chief executive of EQRx, which launched earlier this year to find a "market-based solution" to address rising US drug costs, said "we believe the addition of PD-L1 and PD-1 drug candidates to our expanding clinical pipeline provides [us] and our strategic partners with optionality to deliver high-quality, lower-cost treatment regimens across a broad range of cancers." In July, EQRx announced two licensing deals, gaining exclusive rights to G1 Therapeutics' CDK4/6 inhibitor lerociclib in most global markets, including the US, Europe and Japan, as well as to Hansoh Pharmaceutical's almonertinib outside of China for use in cancer and other diseases.

Second licensing deal for sugemalimab

According to CStone, sugemalimab is under development for high-incidence cancer indications in China, including frontline non-small-cell lung cancer, gastric cancer and oesophageal cancers. Pfizer recently acquired Chinese rights to the experimental treatment, formerly CS1001, as part of a deal that also saw the US drugmaker invest $200 million to take a nearly 10% stake in CStone.

Sugemalimab has FDA breakthrough therapy status for adult relapsed or refractory extranodal natural killer/T-cell lymphoma, as well as an orphan drug designation for T-cell lymphoma. Meanwhile, CS1003 is under evaluation for advanced solid tumours, including a global registration trial in first-line hepatocellular carcinoma, for which it has been granted an orphan drug designation by the US regulator.

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