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Yuhan Corporation’s global R&D and open innovation strategy – in which they introduce early assets from the startups, conduct preclinical & early clinical studies, then license them out to the pharmaceutical giants – is now reaping its benefits. Yuhan, which formerly led the Korean pharmaceutical industry with its sales force, has transformed itself into an innovative drug developer through investment in its R&D program and in & out-license deals with biotech startups and multinational pharmaceutical companies.
As a result, Yuhan has received upfront payments of USD 134 million (KRW 165 billion) through the out-licensing of new drug candidates. The amount includes upfront payments with no obligation to return and a portion of milestone payments for each stage of development.
Yuhan Corporation clinched four technology export agreements since they first licensed out the global sales rights of degenerative disc disease treatment “YH14618” to Spine Biopharma for USD 218 million. In November 2018, Lazertinib (YH25448) was out-licensed to Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Inc for a total amount of USD 1.25 billion, including the upfront, milestone payments, and royalties. In 2019, Yuhan marked a licensing and collaboration agreement worth USD 785 million with Gilead Sciences, and another USD 870 million with Boehringer Ingelheim for its nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) drug candidate. The total of four technology exports amounted to USD 3 billion (KRW 3,819.4 billion).
Yuhan has recently received a milestone payment of USD 10 million from Boehringer Ingelheim upon the completion of the preclinical toxicity test (GLP-Tox) of YH25724; under the terms of the agreement, Yuhan received upfront of USD 40 million and was eligible to receive USD 10 million after GLP-Tox. YH25724 is now expected to enter clinical trials soon.
Yuhan also received USD 35 million from Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. for its first milestone payment, since JNJ-6372 in combination with Lazertinib (YH25448) had received Breakthrough Therapy Designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 
Yuhan’s successive license out deals and receipt of milestone payments are the result of their global R&D and open innovation strategy. Yuhan has already earned USD 45 million this year, including the 1st milestone payment for Lazertinib and the remainder of the upfront for YH25724. The annual milestone payment revenue from those licensing-out deals may reach up to USD 70 to 80 million (approximately 860 billion to 980 billion won) this year.
Yuhan Corporation has been actively promoting open innovation since its CEO Jung-Hee Lee took office in 2015. So far, a total of KRW 200 billion (USD 165 million) has been invested in 25 biotech/pharmaceutical companies. Yuhan has strengthened its global R&D program by establishing a Global Operations team to manage its overseas subsidiaries, and a Global Business Development team to discover novel drug materials from biotech startups.