Junshi commits $31M to pact with mRNA delivery specialist

signing contract
Junshi touched on the recent validation of mRNA technology by COVID-19 vaccines in its discussion of the rationale for the joint venture. (Getty Images)

Junshi Biosciences is investing RMB 200 million ($31 million) in a joint venture with mRNA delivery specialist Immorna. The joint venture will start with financing from Junshi and mRNA intellectual property from Immorna.

China’s Immorna raised an RMB 100 million series A round early this year on the strength of its mRNA platform. Now, Junshi, the first local company to win approval for an anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody in China, has seen enough potential in Immorna’s platform to form a joint venture with the startup. Junshi will invest up to RMB 799 million in the venture, starting with a RMB 200 million outlay. 

In disclosing the joint venture, Junshi highlighted the mRNA delivery capabilities of its new partner. Immorna has “several nanoliposome particles suitable for different administration methods and has technical capabilities in the field of research and development of new non-LNP delivery vehicles,” according to the statement to disclose the joint venture.

Immorna will contribute intellectual property rights in the joint venture. One-quarter of Junshi’s initial RMB 200 million outlay will be used to secure half of the registered capital of the joint venture. Immorna CEO Zihao Wang sees benefits to pooling the resources of the two companies. 

“We are very confident that this new entity will allow us to take advantage of each other’s core competency, quickly and efficiently utilize the versatile mRNA platform technology in immunotherapy and infectious disease prevention and continue our search for new directions of the application,” Wang said in a statement.

Junshi touched on the recent validation of mRNA technology by COVID-19 vaccines in its discussion of the rationale for the joint venture, stating that the potential of the modality “has become increasingly evident.” The Chinese biotech sees applications for mRNA in infectious diseases, cancer and rare diseases, areas that overlap with its existing areas of focus.