BMS boosts I/O pipeline with IFM acquisition
- In a deal announced after the close on Thursday, Bristol-Myers Squibb has snagged IFM Therapeutics' entire immune-focused cancer pipeline. The transaction should close during the third quarter of 2017.
- In return for all the outstanding capital stock of the venture-backed biotech, Bristol-Myers will pay IFM stockholders $300 million upfront and up to $1.01 billion in milestones for each of the first products from the two programs. There could also be potential payments for further products. The deal will include the STING (stimulator of interferon genes) program with a lead candidate, and the NLRP3 agonist program, with a potential clinical candidate.
- The remaining IFM inflammatory disease and fibrosis research programs, and the staff and facilities, will form part of a new company, IFM Therapeutics.
Immuno-oncology, particularly checkpoint inhibitors, has become both an opportunity for improved treatment for patients and a battleground for the companies trying to seize the lead position in cancer therapeutics. Bristol Myers' marketed checkpoint inhibitor, Opdivo (nivolumab), had a knockback last year when it failed to meet the primary endpoint in first-line treatment in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), whereas its competitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab) from Merck & Co. went on to gain approval.
The combination of Opdivo with Bristol-Myers' CTLA4 inhibitor Yervoy (ipilimumab) isn't filling the investors with thrills either – AstraZeneca's failed MYSTIC study has cast doubt on Bristol-Myers' Checkmate-227 study in the same patient population. MYSTIC combined AstraZeneca's PD-L1 inhibitor Imfinzi (durvalumab) in combination with its CTLA4 inhibitor tremelimumab in patients with lung cancer.
Acquiring this pipeline of products could give Bristol-Myers another route into immuno-oncology, by focusing on the innate immune system.
"Targeting innate immunity pathways represents a potentially differentiated approach in immuno-oncology designed to initiate and augment immune responses that may help the body’s natural defenses better recognize and attack tumors," said Thomas Lynch, CSO of Bristol-Myers. "The addition of STING and NLRP3 agonist programs broadens our ability to investigate additional pathways across the immune system and complements our immuno-oncology portfolio."
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