Biogen, Roche ink deals with Bristol for rare disease drugs

Dive Brief:

  • Bristol-Myers Squibb has entered into two new deals out-licensing rare disease candidates to fellow heavyweight drugmakers Biogen and Roche.
  • Biogen will fork over $300 million upfront and as much as $410 million more in milestone payments for BMS-986168, a drug in development for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). Roche, meanwhile, is spending $175 million plus $205 million in milestone payments for BMS-986089, which is under investigation for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Bristol would also be eligible for tiered double-digit royalties should either treatment make it to market.
  • “Licensing these assets to Biogen and Roche will enable Bristol-Myers Squibb to prioritize the other promising opportunities for asset development that have advanced across our diversified portfolio,” Mike Burgess, Bristol-Myers' head of cardiovascular, fibrosis and immunoscience development, said in an April 13 statement

Dive Insight:

Lets unpack these deals a little, because we've got three big pharmas each with their own agenda.

Starting with Bristol-Myers, the New York-based company has, like many of its peers, worked on portfolio consolidation and monetizing non-core assets over the past few years. Bristol's big focus is cancer, specifically immuno-oncology, as evidenced by recent transactions: a $50 million deal with PsiOxus, a $15 million deal with Enterome and a $95 million deal with Cormorant

Bristol hasn't shown much interest in rare disease or neurological illnesses, and therefore out-licensing BMS-986168 and BMS-986089 could help bring back some of the money invested into cancer deals. 

Moving on to Biogen, the company is one of a handful looking to create the next big Alzheimer's treatment. Bristol's drug is a monoclonal antibody that works in a specialized way to degrade Tau protein, which researchers believe contributes to Alzheimer's disease when it builds up in the body. 

Biogen has its own anti-tau medication in Phase 1 testing. But this newest deal helps flesh out the company's early- and mid-stage Alzheimer's pipeline, and signals that its newly minted CEO Michel Vounatsos may be more business development-focused than his predecessors, according to an April 13 note from investment firm Jefferies.

In addition to the other financial terms of the deal, Biogen has agreed to take on the remaining milestone payments owed to iPierian Inc., which Bristol acquired in 2014 for $175 million upfront and which developed BMS-986168. The payments could include royalties, a $60 million near-term milestone and $550 million in other milestones.

Rounding things out is Roche, which has been eyeing rare diseases since at least 2013. The Swiss drugmaker has a few candidates in its pipeline, including treatments for spinal muscular atrophy and hemophilia, but hit snags along the development pathway. In February, for example, a patient death in a Phase 3 trial of its hemophilia drug emicizumab added to existing concerns over the treatment's safety profile. Branching into the DMD space — fairly uncrowded and weighed down by high-priced options — is a strategic move to diversify the company's rare disease offerings.

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Filed Under: Mergers and Acquisitions / Deals
Top image credit: Flickr, A 4