- Bristol-Myers Squibb and West Coast biotech CytomX are investigating novel prodrugs aimed at as many as eight new targets under a newly expanded collaboration.
- The two companies first linked up back in 2014. In their initial deal, Bristol-Myers paid $50 million upfront for worldwide exclusive rights to treatments aimed at up to four cancer targets. The big biopharma also dangled tiered, rising royalties in the mid-single-digit to low-double-digit range, and $298 million in milestone payments for each product that makes it to market.
- Now, Bristol-Myers is offering $200 million upfront and $448 million in milestones per target, a deal volume worth more than $3.75 billion. Of the eight targets, up to six can be oncology-focused while two will be non-oncology.
It's unclear exactly which targets Bristol-Myers will go after. The company has only revealed one target, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA 4), a protein receptor that acts as an inhibitor to T-cells, selected from the initial collaboration. The New York-based drugmaker has experience dealing with CTLA 4 blockers, as exemplified by its immuno-oncology drug Yervoy (ipilimumab).
CytomX, meanwhile, has a handful of drugs at the Innovative New Drug (IND)-filing stage. The company's lead candidate, CX-072, targets the protein programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) much like Bristol-Myers' Opdivo (nivolumab) and Merck's Keytruda (pembrolizumab). CytomX kicked off a Phase 1/2 trial of CX-072 earlier this year testing the drug as a treatment for adult patients with advanced or recurrent solid tumors or lymphomas.
The South San Francisco, Calif.-based company also plans to submit an IND application to the Food and Drug Administration in the first half of 2017 for CX-2009, a medication targeting what is called the activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule, which research shows has a high level of expression among some types of cancer cells.
Regardless of which targets are selected, there's much at stake for both companies under the expanded deal.
For Bristol-Myers, recent setbacks for Opdivo have shaken investor confidence — even spurring rumors that it had become a takeover target. Adding additional, promising immuno-oncology offerings to its pipeline is one way to reiterate commitment to the space and broaden combination options.
And for CytomX, the deal size vastly outweighs previous collaborations inked with AbbVie and Pfizer.
Deal terms hold that Bristol-Myers will award milestone payments as high as $116 million for the first product, though the payment is limited to the first three indications the drug secures and to its first modality. CytomX can also earn up to $124 million for the first commercial sale of the product in various territories and another $60 million in sales milestones, according to an 8-K form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
If the product locks down a second modality, it can earn $56 million in development and regulatory milestones for up to three indications, $62 million for the first commercial sale in various territories and another $30 million in sales milestones.