Chinese biopharmaceutical companies made significant strides in business development and licensing (BD&L) at the beginning of 2024, with three notable deals centered around small nucleic acid drugs/platforms.
The first agreement, announced on January 3, 2024, involved Suzhou Ribo Life Science (Ribo) contributing its RIBO-GalSTARTM platform to a collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim. The partnership aims to develop small interfering RNA (siRNA) therapeutics for non-alcoholic or metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis (NASH/MASH). Under the terms of the agreement, Ribo is entitled to receive a total payment of over USD 2 billion.
On January 7, 2024, two additional deals were disclosed involving Argo BioPharma (Argo) and Novartis. Argo licensed out two assets leveraging its RNA interference (RNAi) technology to Novartis for the development of treatments targeting cardiovascular diseases. The combined potential value of these two agreements amounts to USD 4.165 billion.
Burgeoning Deals Focusing on Small Nucleic Acid Products
Small nucleic acid drugs have emerged as a prominent area of focus in BD&L. In the past year of 2023 alone, a total of 31 BD&L deals were reported worldwide. The total transaction value achieved USD 8.496 billion, representing a significant increase of 371% year on year.1
Among these 31 deals, the collaboration between Ionis and AstraZeneca stands out with the highest value of USD 3.62 billion. Under this partnership, AstraZeneca got the exclusive rights to commercialize eplontersen, an investigational antisense oligonucleotide therapeutic for transthyretin amyloidosis (ATTR), in Latin America.
Chinese Companies’ Increasing Involvement in Small Nucleic Acid Deals
China’s growth in small nucleic acid deals is remarkable. In 2019, there were no deals involving Chinese companies in this field. However, by 2023, Chinese enterprises participated in 12 out of the 31 deals, showcasing impressive growth and engagement in the sector.
Regarding therapeutic areas, 67% of small nucleic acid deals involving Chinese companies in 2023 are concentrated in the area of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. In contrast, global deals encompass a broader range of therapeutic areas, demonstrating a more diverse distribution.