Collaborations, Combos, Immuno-oncology

Bristol-Myers embraces a possible checkpoint collaborator, snagging a batch of stock and lining up a potential deal

Bristol-Myers Squibb $BMY is buddying up with a little biotech that just might have the key to unlocking a checkpoint strategy for one block of cancer patients. 

The big PD-1 player is investing $12 million at a premium price in Compugen, intrigued by early preclinical data that indicate there could be real potential for their checkpoint strategy. That’s not a huge sum, but it’s a clear indication of interest from Bristol-Myers Squibb, which has lined up first rights to negotiating a licensing pact with Compugen.

Compugen’s stock $CGEN surged 10% on the news, with the right to pursue an early-stage study of a combination of Opdivo and COM701.

The little biotech has posted preclinical evidence that suggests elevated levels of the ligand PVRL2 in PD-1 resistant cases may offer a key biomarker for their drug, the PVRIG-targeted COM701. Last summer the FDA lifted a clinical hold it slapped on Compugen’s first-in-human trial for its I/O drug, clearing the Israeli biotech to finally begin its first ever Phase I study.

Peter Welford

Researchers for the company have said that PVRIG and TIGIT, and their respective ligands, “are expressed in a broad variety of tumor types, such as those noted above, as well as lung, kidney, and head & neck cancers.” Ultimately, some patients could require a triple combo targeting PVRIG, TIGIT and PD-1 to achieve a durable response.

Or that’s the theory, anyway. Peter Welford at Jefferies enjoyed reading the news. He noted:

Along with the Phase I study for Bayer-partnered anti-ILDR2 BAY1905254, we could see initial proof-of-concept data over the next 12-24 months, critical to crystallize value.

Bristol-Myers gets a stretch of a few months time to negotiate on a licensing deal as the data emerge. After that, the deal table will be wide open.

Bristol-Myers has been hard at it building their mega blockbuster Opdivo, but fell behind a dominant Merck recently after their Big Pharma rival beat them on frontline lung cancer. Bristol-Myers, though, is a plugger, and they’re not giving up now.

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