Abpro Therapeutics Inc. has granted an exclusive license to Abpro Bio Co. Ltd., the former Ugint Co. Ltd., to develop and commercialize two bispecific antibodies in Asian markets, including greater China, Japan and South Korea.

Woburn, Mass.-based Abpro will receive up to $1.1 billion from Abpro Bio, including a $30 million up-front equity investment and an additional $1.05 billion based on clinical milestones, post-approval payments and royalties as the antibodies progress through clinical development and regulatory approvals.

Ian Chan, Abpro’s co-founder and CEO, told BioWorld the two companies, despite the similarities in their names, are “not related, except for the deal we just cut.” Abpro’s business model is based on working with select partners, but that could change in the future.

“That’s been the model for us, but it doesn’t mean we won’t go directly to patients eventually,” Chan said.

Chan, along with Eugene Chan, Abpro’s chairman and also a co-founder, will join Abpro Bio’s board. Bob Langer, a member of Abpro’s scientific advisory board, will also join the Abpro Bio board.

The antibodies, two of Abpro’s lead programs, are for treating solid tumors, including breast, gastric and colorectal and ophthalmology diseases, such as wet age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema. ABP-100 is being developed for immuno-oncology indications that include gastric, breast and endometrial cancers. ABP-201 is being developed for ophthalmic indications that include wet age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema. The diseases are indicative of large, unmet needs across Asia, Chan said.

With this deal, Chan said, Abpro is working to get the two antibodies into the clinic. ABP-100 is being guided toward the clinic for the end of this year and ABP-201 is being targeted to enter a clinical trial by the end of 2021, Chan said.

A year ago, Abpro embarked on a deal to develop bispecific therapies for cancer for as much as $4 billion, including $60 million in near-term R&D funding, from its Chinese partner, NJCTTQ, a subsidiary of Nanjing Chia Tai Tianqing Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd. In its courtship with the NJCTTQ, Chan said at the time that his team had found a company that was "extremely interesting" based on its capabilities and ambitions as well as an organization with extensive distribution capabilities that will allow for joint coverage of "the entire value chain, from target ID all the way down to sales and marketing."

Abpro, which in 2018 filed for and rapidly withdrew plans for an IPO, has a track record of collaborations with companies, including Glaxosmithkline plc, Astrazeneca plc's Medimmune Inc. and Essex Bio-Investment Ltd.

At the end of 2017, it also arranged to work with China-based Luye Pharma Group Ltd. to develop and commercialize bispecific antibodies for immuno-oncology applications.

The company has two proprietary platforms, Diversimmune and Multimab, which have been used against more than 300 targets. Multimab is a bispecific platform for assembling antibodies into bi- and multispecific antibody formats that can be tailored to a program. Diversimmune platform consists of three key steps, each focused on generating a diverse collection of high-quality antibodies. In the first step, the company uses a collection of immunization methods to elicit a strong and diverse immune response. It then uses its Immunomax mouse model, along with a variety of co-stimulation methods, to optimize the immune response to each target. Finally, it uses processes of humanization and optimization to provide building blocks that can be assembled into therapies using its Multimab antibody engineering platform.

Abpro Bio, founded in 1991 and based in Daegu, South Korea, has diversified holdings, which include machining tools equipment and no biotechnology. The company markets it machining properties around the world.

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