Buyout buzz hits fever pitch on report that Nektar is ‘exploring options’

The buzz about a possible acquisition of Nektar Therapeutics $NKTR has been intense over the last few weeks, especially as new M&A deals have begun to pour through. So maybe it’s not a huge surprise to hear that Bloomberg is reporting Friday afternoon that the biotech is exploring its options, and perhaps a sale.

Nektar spotlighted NKTR-214 at SITC last fall, raising interest for a therapy that hopes to make waves in I/O.

The drug is an IL-2 immuno-oncology therapy — built from the ground up by the biotech — which is designed to bind to the CD122 receptor on the surface of CD-8 and CD-4 positive immune cells to whip up an attack on various cancers. Nektar struck a 50/50 deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb $BMY to use their drug in combination with Opdivo (nivolumab), matching a therapy aimed at driving an immune response with a popular checkpoint blockbuster that helps take the brakes off the assault.

There’s also a late-stage program underway for a pain drug called NKTR-181.

It hasn’t all been a bed of roses for Nektar over the past year. The biotech attempted to win an accelerated European OK for its cancer drug Onzeald (NKTR-102), but ran straight into a regulatory brick wall. The CHMP voted thumbs down on Onzeald, which was also bad news for Daiichi Sankyo, which bet $20 million upfront on a regional licensing pact for the drug. Daiichi recently signaled that it wanted to bail on the deal.

We’ve seen a string of biotech buyouts in the weeks following JP Morgan, as companies make adjustments to their plans based on the long awaited tax reform bill. And more are expected.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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