Drug Development

Bristol-Myers bags a new tumor microenvironment drug for next-gen cancer combos

A little more than three years ago, Genmab outlicensed its HuMax IL-8 targeting antibody to little Cormorant Pharmaceuticals in Stockholm. Over recent years, investigators have been plumbing IL-8, looking at the ways IL-8 signaling influences the tumor microenvironment, promoting inflammation, assisting in cancer cell survival and promoting their migration.

That mechanism could play a role in a new wave of immuno-oncology drugs headed to the clinic – which helped attract the NCI into the early-stage program. And now Bristol-Myers Squibb, which leads the immuno-oncology field with its dominant drug Opdivo, wants it.

Bristol-Myers this morning said it will pay $95 million upfront and up to $425 million in milestones to grab the company and the drug, clearly with an eye on the next-gen combination drugs that can be made.

Francis Cuss, Bristol-Myers Squibb CSO

Francis Cuss, Bristol-Myers Squibb CSO

“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 Bristol-Myers research chief Francis Cuss.

The big biotech’s philosophy on these deals is clear and simple: If Bristol-Myers is working on something and they find a drug program or tech somewhere that can move them up the playing field faster, they’ll pursue it. The same strategy took them to the deal table for Padlock, which was working on new autoimmune drugs Bristol-Myers’ execs felt was ahead of their own work in the field.

And now they own it.

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