Investors feel the pain of HLB’s interest in biotech

From ship-building to solar energy, the South Korean concern HLB Company Ltd has its fingers in numerous pies. Today its investors got confirmation that much of its value actually derives from a 65% stake in the private US/Korean company LSK Biopharma. This is because LSK’s lead asset, rivoceranib, failed to improve overall survival in Angel, its international phase III trial in gastric cancer, and the setback caused HLB’s stock to lose 30%, or about $730m in market cap terms. HLB had built a stake in LSK over a few years, and is understood to have recently topped up its holding with the purchase of a 7% interest at a valuation of $300m. Rivoceranib, meanwhile, has a curious history: it is a somewhat obscure VEGFr2 kinase inhibitor originated by another private US group, Advenchen Laboratories, and previously known under the generic name apatinib. In 2014 it was launched as Aitan in China for gastric cancer by Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine, with whose anti-PD-1 MAb camrelizumab it is separately being combined in a front-line gastric cancer trial. LSK says it is continuing rivoceranib studies in this and other settings.

Studies of rivoceranib/apatinib involving US clinics
Trial Setting Result Trial ID
Phase III (Angel) Monotherapy vs placebo, ≥2nd-line gastric cancer Failed to improve OS NCT03042611
Phase I/II (Appease) Keytruda combo, previously treated urothelial, MSI-H/dMMR & gastric cancers Data 2023 NCT03407976
Phase I Opdivo combo, various cancers Data Sep 2019 NCT03396211
Unclear Camrelizumab combo, first-line gastric cancer Study cleared to begin Apr 2019 None
Source: company announcements & clinicaltrials.gov.

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