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RedHill signs deal with Kukbo for oral COVID-19 drug in South Korea

RedHill Biopharma Ltd., a specialty biopharmaceutical company, announced that it has entered into an exclusive license agreement with Kukbo Co. Ltd., a South Korean corporation, for oral opaganib for the treatment of COVID-19, in South Korea.

Opaganib, a first-in-class new chemical entity, is a sphingosine kinase-2 (SK2) selective inhibitor in oral pill form, with dual anti-inflammatory and antiviral activity. Opaganib’s unique mechanism is host-targeted and therefore expected to be effective against emerging viral variants. It is an investigational drug being evaluated as a treatment for severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

Under the terms of the license agreement, which follows the previously announced strategic investment by Kukbo, RedHill will receive an upfront payment of $1.5 million and is eligible for up to $5.6 million in milestone payments as well as low double-digit royalties on net sales of oral opaganib in South Korea. Kukbo will receive the exclusive rights to commercialize opaganib in South Korea for COVID-19.

Dror Ben-Asher, RedHill’s CEO, said:

South Korea is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases with the Korea Disease Control & Prevention Agency reporting almost 4 million new cases already registered in the first half of March alone. Together with our partner, Kukbo, we are working hard to bring opaganib to Korean patients in need of new COVID-19 therapeutic options.

Hyun Ha, Kukbo’s CEO, said:

Every day this month we are seeing an average of almost 2000 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in South Korea and we desperately need medications that can effectively treat these patients. With the data supporting opaganib for COVID-19, and the expanded partnership with RedHill, Kukbo is determined to work with local regulators with the aim of bringing opaganib to South Korean patients, as soon as possible.

The partnership with Kukbo also includes a right of first offer for RedHill’s late-stage clinical assets, opaganib, RHB-107 (upamostat) and Talicia®, for one or more of the territories of South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and/or Malaysia. The right of first offer has been extended as part of the new license agreement until the end of October 2022.


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