The company will sell its China unit, I-Mab Shanghai, to affiliate Hangzhou Co for up to $80 million, subject to certain regulatory and sales-based milestones.

The move makes strategic sense, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Louise Chen said, adding that the development came as a surprise.

Investors have shown reluctance to invest in China-based biotech companies mainly due to geopolitical concerns, according to Chen.

Chinese markets have been under pressure in recent years, hurt first by a trade spat with U.S. and then by the collapse of property giant China Evergrande.

I-Mab, which also named Joseph Skelton as its new chief financial officer, will continue to be listed on the Nasdaq and retain outside-China rights for all of its experimental treatments being tested in human trials.

These include the company's cancer drug uliledlimab, being tested in a mid-stage study to treat non-small cell lung cancer, as well as its early-stage cancer treatments givastomig and TJ-L14B.

Hangzhou Co will acquire rights to I-Mab's experimental treatments in China, including Greater China rights for its pediatric growth hormone deficiency therapy eftansomatropin alfa and four experimental cancer treatments.

Following the completion of the divestiture, I-Mab will own a less than 10% stake in Hangzhou Co.

(Reporting by Bhanvi Satija in Bengaluru; Editing by Varun H K and Shounak Dasgupta)