In a deal worth just over $500 million, US pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb has entered into an agreement to buy Sweden’s Cormorant Pharmaceuticals. Cormorant is a biotech company that is working to develop new drug candidates for both the oncology and rare disease sectors.
Based on the success of the drugs in Cormorant’s pipeline, the deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb could be worth as much as $520 million. The company’s lead candidate – HuMax-IL8 – is a monoclonal antibody in early to midstage development, which targets the interleukin-8 (IL-8) chemokine produced by macrophages.
“We believe combination therapy will be foundational to delivering the potential for long-term survival for patients,” said Francis Cuss, EVP and chief scientific officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb, “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.”
The experimental drug is designed to heighten the body’s immune response toward cancer cells, while increasing the effectiveness of other immuno-oncology drugs. The rights to HuMax-IL8 were acquired by Cormorant from Denmark-based Genmab in 2012. Genmab bought the drug candidate from Medarex in 2007 – a company which was later acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2009.
The deal is consistent with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s leadership in the immuno-oncology space, with its regulator-approved checkpoint inhibitor, Opdivo, representing a big success for the company. While the company did not specify whether Opdivo and HuMax-IL8 would be combined in a future clinical trial, combination therapies are thought to be important in the new immuno-oncology field.
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and Merck’s Keytruda have shown promising results in clinical trials by slowing tumor growth, cancer progression and in some cases, increasing patient survival. These positive effects have so far only been seen in a small number of patients, leading cancer drug developers to look for other therapies that could increase their efficacy.
“Bristol-Myers Squibb is the ideal company to maximize the potential of both Cormorant and the HuMax-IL8 program, and bring hope to more patients,” said Maarten de Château, CEO of Cormorant Pharmaceuticals. “Bristol-Myers Squibb is the leader in the immuno-oncology field, with deep clinical development and regulatory expertise, and an established commercial infrastructure to deliver important new therapies to patients quickly. Bristol-Myers Squibb’s rich pipeline of clinical candidates and approved products provides even more opportunity for potential therapeutic synergy when coupled with HuMax-IL8.”