JP Morgan 2023 – licensing deal flurry offers limited cash up front

As well as three bolt-on deals with a European flavour day one of the JP Morgan healthcare conference today saw a flurry of smaller business development activities. However, none was enough to set the pulses racing: the biggest, a gene therapy-focused tie-up between Voyager and Neurocrine, was worth $175m in immediate cash, with $39m of this in equity, so it was hardly the sort of transaction deal bankers are desperate for as biotech enters an uncertain 2023. Lilly, Roche and Bayer signed discovery deals with Trexbio, Kronos and Recode respectively, worth a combined $75m in disclosed up-fronts. Meanwhile, Coherus picked up Klinge’s biosimilar version of Eylea, and Autolus licensed its Car-T switch to Cabaletta, mirroring an earlier non-exclusive licence with Bristol Myers Squibb. Elsewhere two companies buried bad news as Calithera moved to liquidate in the wake of telaglenastat’s failure, and Editas’s chief medical officer stepped down as the company discontinued work on NK cells at a precarious time for this field. The fact deals are happening is positive, of course, but signs from 2023’s first major investor conference are that buyers are increasingly able to dictate terms.

Selected licensing transactions on day one of JP Morgan
Deal source Partner Up-front Deal summary
Voyager Neurocrine $136m* Rights to Voyager’s GBA1 gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease & 3 gene therapies for rare CNS targets (follows previous deal over VY-AADC)
Trexbio Lilly $55m Discovery of Treg-based therapeutics for immune-mediated diseases
Klinge Coherus €30m** US rights to Klinge's FYB203, a biosimilar version of Eylea
Kronos Roche $20m Use of Kronos's drug discovery tech against transcription factors selected by Roche
Autolus Cabaletta ND Rights to Autolus’s RQR8 safety switch for use in autoimmune disease project
Recode Askbio (Bayer) ND Discovery deal combining Askbio's synthetic DNA & gene-editing nucleases with Recode’s LNP tech
Notes: *plus $39m equity investment; **$32m; ND=not disclosed. Source: company releases.

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