The Top 5 Biggest Licensing Deals of 2023 So Far

As biotechs face a challenging commercial environment with limited options for IPOs, interest in forging partnership agreements remains high. This article explores five top biotech and pharma licensing deals, ranked by the potential total deal value, that 2023 has brought to date. From advancing precision oncology to regenerative medicine, these partnerships underscore a commitment to addressing unmet medical needs.

5. Proxygen and Merck: Advancing Molecular Glue Degraders

Date: April 2023

Potential total deal size: USD 2.55 billion

Deal summary: Proxygen and Merck embark on a multi-year research collaboration and license deal to develop molecular glue degraders. Proxigen counts with an innovative discovery engine to identify the glue degraders against challenging therapeutic targets. Merck‚Äôs international capabilities in R&D will help with the advancement of this technology. 

Key financials: The collaboration was sealed with an upfront payment, along with the potential of up to USD 2.55 billion in milestone payments across all programs.

4. Alnylam and Roche: Co-Developing Investigational RNAi Therapeutic for Hypertension

Date: July 2023

Potential total deal size: USD 2.8 billion

Deal summary: Alnylam partners with Roche to co-develop and co-commercialize zilebesiran, an investigational RNAi therapeutic currently in Phase II development for hypertension in patients with high cardiovascular risk. The partnership leverages Alnylam’s expertise in RNAi therapeutics and Roche’s global reach. It aims to disrupt hypertension treatment paradigms and enhance patient outcomes. Both partners co-commercialize the therapeutic in the U.S., while Roche obtained the exclusive license to market zilebesiran outside the U.S.

Key financials: Alnylam received an upfront cash payment of USD 310 million from Roche. Additional development, regulatory, and sales milestones could potentially elevate the deal value to USD 2.8 billion. Alnylam will have an equal share of profits and losses in the US, coupled with royalties on net sales outside the US.

3. Evotec and Bristol Myers Squibb: Extending Neurodegeneration Collaboration

Date: March 2023

Potential total deal size: USD 4 billion

Deal summary: Evotec and Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) extend and deepen their strategic partnership to develop a broadened program pipeline in neurodegenerative diseases. The partnership harnesses Evotec’s precision medicine platforms to innovate in a challenging therapeutic area. The partnership, started in 2016, had already led to several discovery and clinical-stage programmes, i.e. EVT8683 which was in-licensed by BMS and progressed to clinical Phase I.

Key financials: The partnership entails an upfront payment of USD 50m to Evotec, bolstered by a stream of performance milestone payments. Tiered royalties on product sales further underscore the financial commitment, resulting in USD 4bn potential deal value.

2. Akeso Inc and Summit Therapeutics: Innovative Bispecific Antibody for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment

Date: January 2023

Potential total deal size: USD 4.5 billion

Deal summary: Akeso Inc. and Summit Therapeutics have finalized an agreement to in-license ivonescimab, a breakthrough bispecific antibody. The antibody combines immunotherapy with anti-angiogenesis effects to potentially revolutionize treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Summit gains rights to develop and commercialize ivonescimab in the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan, whereas Akeso retains rights for the rest of the world.

Key financials To secure these rights, Summit commits an upfront payment of USD 500m, paid in two installments of USD 300m and 200m. Additionally, the partnership outlines a potential deal value of up to USD 4.5 billion, factoring in near-term payments, research goals, development milestones, plus low double-digit royalties on net sales.

1. Kelun-Biotech and Merck: Seven Investigational Antibody-drug Conjugates for Cancer Treatment

Date: February 2023

Potential total deal size: USD 9.3 billion

Deal summary: Kelun-Biotech and Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada) sealed an exclusive license and collaboration agreement to develop seven investigational preclinical antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) for cancer treatment. The deal marks a significant step towards advancing precision cancer therapies. The ADC technologies are designed to deliver potent anticancer agents precisely to tumor sites. While Merck gains exclusive global licenses to develop and commercialize multiple investigational preclinical ADC therapies, Kelun-Biotech retains rights for mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Key financials: Kelun-Biotech receives a significant upfront payment of USD 175 million from Merck. In addition, Kelun-Biotech stands to gain future development, regulatory, and sales milestone payments, which could total up to USD 9.3 billion.

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