Bristol-Myers Squibb buys cancer, rare disease biotech Cormorant

On something of a biotech spree in 2016, Bristol-Myers ($BMY) has inked a buyout deal for Sweden’s Cormorant Pharmaceuticals in an acquisition worth just north of $500 million.

The U.S. Big Pharma announced this morning that it has acquired all of the outstanding capital stock of Cormorant--the private, Stockholm-based biotech working on new candidates for cancer and rare diseases.

The deal, which could be worth as much as $520 million based on the success of its pipeline, gives Bristol full rights to Cormorant’s HuMax-IL8 antibody program, and to its lead candidate HuMax-IL8.

The experimental early-to-midstage mAb is targeted against interleukin-8 (IL-8) that is designed to enhance an immune response to cancer, while also making other immuno-oncology drugs potentially more effective.

In a strange twist, HuMax-IL8 has now gone full circle between biotech and pharma, essentially ending back where it started. The rights to the drug originally came from a deal Cormorant struck with Copenhagen-based Genmab back in 2012, who itself bought the drug from Medarex in 2007--a company Bristol snapped up for $2.4 billion in 2009.  

This will sit nicely within BMS's own I/O platform and its runaway success of its checkpoint inhibitor and immuno-oncology market leader Opvido (nivolumab). The companies did not say whether they will combine HuMax-IL8 with Opdivo in any future trial, although combo trials are seen as the way forward for this emerging class of cancer drugs. 

“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, EVP and chief scientific officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Maarten de Château, CEO of Cormorant Pharmaceuticals, added: “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.

“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.”

This also comes just four months after BMS paid $600 million to buyout the biotech startup Padlock Therapeutics and its autoimmune R&D platform.

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