S. Korea's Hanmi sells lung cancer candidate rights to BI in second major deal this year

South Korea's Hanmi Pharma sold exclusive rights to privately held Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) to jointly develop and sell novel lung cancer candidate HM61713 for $50 million upfront and the prospect of $680 million in milestones and keep local and some greater China rights.

The candidate is currently in Phase II trials to treat EGFR mutation-positive lung cancer and is slated for Phase III this year, BI said in a July 28 press release.

According to the release, in addition to the upfront payment, Hanmi is eligible for milestones up to $680M and tiered double-digit royalties on net sales in exchange for global commercialization rights to BI, except South Korea, China and Hong Kong. Macau and Taiwan were not named in the release.

The deal marks the second potential blockbuster out-licensing for Hanmi this year following poziotinib for treating several types of cancer with U.S.-based Spectrum Pharmaceuticals ($SPPI) to market the oral HER-inhibitor globally except in China and South Korea.

Poziotinib is in Phase II trials in South Korea for expanding its breast cancer indication to Stage 4 patients. Other trials are underway for its use for treating colorectal, gastric and lung cancers.

The South Korean firm has moved aggressively on several fronts, battling with major drug firms such as AstraZeneca ($AZN) over Nexium copies in the U.S. and with Pfizer ($PFE) for generic Viagra at home.

But the licensing deals are catching notice, including one in March with Eli Lilly ($LLY) which has bet up to $690 million that a Hanmi drug can successfully treat an array of autoimmune diseases.

Under the deal, Lilly will pay Hanmi $50 million up front for the ex-Asian rights to HM71224, a small-molecule candidate that blocks Bruton's tyrosine kinase--much like Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and AbbVie's ($ABBV) blockbuster oncology drug Imbruvica.

Hanmi's drug, however, is directed at autoimmune ailments, the company said, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and the rare Sjögren's syndrome.

Also in March, Hanmi signed a licensing agreement for Kinex Pharmaceuticals to develop its Orascovery pump inhibitor for gastrointestinal treatments in India.

The companies have been partners in global development since 2011 except for in South Korea and Japan. Under the agreement, Kinex is to have full responsibility for developing Orascovery in India. Hanmi also has arrangements with other drugmakers in Australia and New Zealand and in Singapore.

- here's the BI release