Just weeks after exclusively out-licensing China rights for its anti-PD-L1 monoclonal antibody (MAb), sugemalimab, to Pfizer Inc., Cstone Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. has monetized it again in a valuable new deal with Eqrx Inc. Deal terms include $150 million up front and as much as $1.15 billion in milestones for Cstone in exchange for full commercial rights to sugemalimab and the anti-PD-1 MAb CS-1003 outside greater China. Cstone could also receive tiered royalties if the products reach market.

Though both programs have shown strong safety and efficacy profiles, Cstone Chairman and CEO Frank Jiang told BioWorld that "we know that we need help to maximize the value of these products both in China and globally." Funds from the deal will support not only Cstone’s advancement of CS-1003 in China, where it retained rights to the PD-1 program, but also its ability to support an ambitious slate of internal development goals geared toward expanding its pipeline and manufacturing capabilities, he said.

The deal is similar in some respects to one executed in August by Cstone's Suzhou, China, neighbor Innovent Biologics Inc. with Eli Lilly and Co. In that agreement, Innovent out-licensed ex-China rights for its PD-1 drug, Tyvyt (sintilimab), to Lilly for $200 million up front and up to $1.025 billion in milestones. Lilly plans to seek approval for the PD-1 drug  in the U.S. and other markets. However, at least on the surface, goals expressed for the arrangements differ from those leading the Cstone-Eqrx deal.

A privately held startup founded by CEO Alexis Borisy earlier this year, Eqrx has a stated goal of bringing to market drugs priced "radically lower" than first-in-class medicines. In its deal with Cstone – its first disclosed partnership – Borisy said he sees an opportunity to "deliver high-quality, lower cost treatment regimens across a broad range of cancers." Though the companies have not disclosed their immediate development plans for sugemalimab and CS-1003, their new partnership appears to be a concrete step toward realizing those goals.