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BMS adds another Ono drug to its immuno-oncology portfolio

Pharma giant hopes its new candidate can follow in the footsteps of Opdivo

BMSBristol-Myers Squibb’s ambitions in cancer immunotherapy show no sign of abating as the company pays $40m upfront to Japan’s Ono Pharma for rights to a drug designed to boost immune responses in the tumour microenvironment.

It’s not the first time that BMS has tapped Ono for a cancer immunotherapy - the Japanese firm was the originator of PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab), licensed by BMS in 2011 and jointly developed by the two firms, and now heading the checkpoint inhibitor market with sales of $3.5bn in the first nine months of this year.

BMS will be hoping it can follow in those footsteps with the new drug candidate - called ONO-4578 - which is an oral antagonist of a prostaglandin E2 receptor subtype (EP4) in early-stage (phase I) trials in Japan.

In experimental models, EP4 seems to play a role in suppressing the immune system and is overexpressed in some cancers, including prostate and breast cancer. The mechanism could be complementary to that of Opdivo, raising the possibility of using the two drugs side-by-side to boost immune responses to tumours.

BMS is acquiring rights to the drug as well as follow-up compounds outside certain Asian markets, including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China and others, and will also pay undisclosed milestone payments and royalties. It will collaborate with Ono in developing the drug in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

A few other groups have been developing EP4 receptor antagonists in cancer, including Eisai whose lead candidate E7046 is in phase I testing in Japan, and Eli Lilly which has completed phase I trials for its LY3127760 compound - although the latter no longer appears to feature in its pipeline report.

Another drug in the class already approved for use as a veterinary medicine, grapiprant, was due to be tested in a phase II trial by researchers at the University of Maryland in the US but the study was withdrawn, according to clinicaltrials.gov.

BMS’ head of oncology Fouad Namouni said the deal ties in with the company’s view that finding the right immuno-oncology combinations will be key to improve long-term outcomes in cancer patients.

“Ono’s prostaglandin E2 receptor antagonist programmes offer the potential to develop targeted therapies that counteract the effects of an immunosuppressive tumour microenvironment,” he said.

“Researching prostaglandin E2 receptor antagonists in combination with our oncology portfolio has the potential to result in an enhanced response in a broad range of tumours.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

14th December 2017

From: Sales

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