- Bristol-Myers Squibb has bought Swedish firm Cormorant Pharmaceuticals in a potentially $520 million deal, adding an antibody program designed to boost the efficacy of immuno-oncology drugs.
- As part of a deal announced Tuesday, Bristol-Myers acquired all outstanding capital stock of the private Cormorant, unlocking full rights to a mid-stage monoclonal antibody known as HuMax-IL8.
- Cormorant will receive $95 million in upfront and near-term contingent payments and is eligible for as much as $425 million in additional milestone money.
Bristol-Myers has jumped to the head of the immuno-oncology race with a strong launch from its cancer drug Opdivo. The New York-based company also markets the drugs Empliciti and Yervoy, which similarly work by boosting the body's immune response to cancer cells.
New immuno-oncology drugs like Opdivo and rival Merck's Keytruda have shown dramatic clinical promise for treatment of a range of cancers, slowing tumor growth and extending patient survival in some cases. That level of positive response is seen only by a smaller subset of patients, however, leading cancer companies to search for ways to boost efficacy.
Combination therapies, which combine multiple drugs into a single treatment regimen, have been one attractive approach. Bristol-Myers thinks Cormorant's HuMax-IL8 could help in this respect.
"We believe combination therapy will be foundational to delivering the potential for long-term survival for patients, and the opportunity to develop the HuMax-IL8 antibody program together with our broad immuno-oncology pipeline enables us to accelerate the next wave of potentially transformational immunotherapies,” said Francis Cuss, chief scientific officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb.
HuMax-IL8 targets the interleukin-8 protein, which is expressed by many solid tumors and is thought to toggle down the immune system's response to tumor growth.
Cormorant had picked up rights to HuMax-IL8 from Genmab A/S in 2012. Five years earlier, Genmab had bought the candidate through asset swap with Medarex, which ironically was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2009.
As sales of Opdivo gather steam, Bristol-Myers has looked to outside partners for potential ways to further improve the drug's profile. Just last week for example, Bristol-Myers signed a collaboration deal with the English PsiOxus Therapeutics to evaluate a oncolytic adenovirus drug in combination with Opdivo.
While the deal with Cormorant did not mention Opdivo by name, the comments from Cuss point toward a similar focus on immuno-oncology.