South Korea's Yuhan finds U.S. partner Sorrento for immune checkpoint antibodies JV

Sorrento CEO Henry Ji

Seoul-based Yuhan will put up $10 million to work with Sorrento Therapeutics ($SRNE) to develop oncology-focused immune checkpoint antibodies from the San Diego company in a joint venture.

The partnership, to be called ImmuneOncia Therapeutics, follows a report that Yuhan along with other South Korean biotech companies were eager to conclude deals at the January J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

But among those companies, Yuhan was seen as a slow mover in biotech R&D until in September of last year it became the second largest shareholder of Daejeon-based Bioneer working on a series of candidates in immuno-oncology.

In return for the cash from Yuhan, which also sees its Chief Scientific Officer Su Youn Nam named as CEO of the venture, Sorrento brings in an unspecified immune checkpoint antibody in a license deal that excludes the U.S., European, and Japanese markets.

"As well as global rights for the JV to two additional antibodies that will be selected by ImmuneOncia from a group of pre-specified antibodies from Sorrento's immuno-oncology antibody portfolio," the companies said in a release.

"Yuhan will own 51% of ImmuneOncia, while Sorrento will hold the remaining 49%."

The JV is focused on development and commercialization efforts in undisclosed targets for both hematological malignancies and solid tumors.

Sorrento is not new to dealmaking in Asia. In August of last year, Mabtech, a holding company for China mAb biotechs, in-licensed four monoclonal antibodies to Sorrento Therapeutics with all of the candidates having completed Phase III trials in China.

Mabtech is owned by Asia-based private equity firm CDH Investments.

Sorrento, affiliated with biotech entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, was tasked with developing the candidates for the North American, European and Japanese markets.

- here's the release