- Daiichi Sankyo is buying San Diego-based Ambit Biosciences for $315 million up front, as well as potential milestone payments that bring the total to $410 million.
- The buyout nabs Daiichi several cancer drugs, including quizartinib, which is in late-stage development for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
- Ambit was previously working with another Japanese company, Astellas, to develop quizartinib -- but Astellas dropped all rights to the AML drug last year.
The biggest news behind this acquisition is that quizartinib, which is currently in phase III trials, will continue to be developed. Quizartinib works by turning off the mutated FLT3 enzyme that drives the spread of leukemia. Unlike Astellas, which abandoned co-development of quizartinib last year, Daiichi is determined to grow its oncology portfolio, starting with quizartinib and also several other cancer drugs in various stages of Ambit’s pipeline.
Acquiring Ambit is part of Daiichi’s larger strategy, which has led the pharmaceutical to acquire three companies in the last six years. In 2008, Daiichi acquired Germany-based U3 Pharma AG, and in 2011, it paid $805 million up front to acquire Berkeley, CA-based Plexxikon. Like Ambit, Plexxikon was focused on an oncology target, in this case for the treatment of melanoma.