Korean firm buys stake in Russian liver cancer therapy developer for $20m

By Son Ji-hyoung
  • Published : Mar 27, 2020 - 15:21
  • Updated : Mar 27, 2020 - 15:21

An aerial view of Dubna Special Economic Zone in Russia (Courtesy of Dubna Special Economic Zone)
Seoul-based Thelma Therapeutics said Friday it has closed a deal to buy 27 percent stake in Russian liver cancer therapy developer for 24.3 billion won ($20 million), to tap the overseas health care market.

The stake was of NBT, a parent company that wholly owns radioembolization therapy device developer Bebig, both located in the Dubna Special Economic Zone on the northern outskirts of Moscow.

Bebig is known for selling the therapy device called Microsphere, used to cure liver cancer -- a therapy that combines embolization and radiation.

Thelma said the deal is meant to “enter into the biomedical device business” in Russia. NBT’s net profit in 2019 surged threefold on-year to 67.8 million rubles ($877,200).

Thelma bought the shares from Zvezda and Otkrytie, which backed a combined 240 billion won to Thelma through its convertible bonds issued Thursday. The company paid the rest of 300 million won in cash.

If the CBs are convert to shares, Zvezda and Otkrytie will hold a combined 33.94 percent stake in Thelma.

This comes in line with efforts of Thelma, formerly known as Medipartner Life Science, to turn into a therapy developer.

Founded in 1981, Thelma Therapeutics, trading on the nation’s main bourse Kospi, has been dedicated to voucher distribution and dental clinic’s management service.

But over the past few months, Thelma ushered in plans to develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis drug candidates. In January, it approved Yoon Byung-hak, who formerly led the development of cancer drug Apatinib for HLB, as an inside board director. Thelma in February announced its partnership with Korean drugmaker Knotus for the liver therapy.

Its largest shareholder Medipartner held a 22.6 percent stake in Thelma, as of end-December.

By Son Ji-hyoung (