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BMS pens massive $3.6bn deal for Nektar cancer immunotherapy

Nektar’s NKTR-214 to be paired with Opdivo and Yervoy in a host of tumour types

Bristol-Myers Squibb Bristol-Myers Squibb is pulling no punches as it tries to stay at the forefront of the immuno-oncology market, signing a $3.6bn deal to pair Opdivo and Yervoy with Nektar’s NKTR-214 in a host of tumour types.

The two companies have agreed to co-develop NKTR-214 in combination with PD-1 antagonist Opdivo (nivolumab) and CTLA4 inhibitor Yervoy (ipilimumab) in more than 20 indications across nine cancers, including melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, non-small-cell lung cancer, bladder cancer and triple-negative breast cancer. Pivotal trials in RCC and melanoma are due to start before the end of the year.

BMS is paying a whopping $1.85bn upfront - consisting $1bn in cash and an $850m equity investment - with another $1.43bn in the offing if the alliance passes development and regulatory milestones and another $250m if it meets sales targets. The companies will share global profits on NKTR-214, with Nektar receiving 65% and BMS 35%.

The two companies have been working together on NKTR-214 since 2016, when they signed an agreement to test Opdivo and NKTR-214 in a phase I/II trial in bladder, RCC and NSCLC, and the scale of this expanded agreement suggests that preliminary data coming out of those projects is looking good.

NKTR-214 is a CD122-biased agonist designed to stimulate the patient's own immune system to fight cancer, working to expand T cell and natural killer (NK) cell populations that attack tumours as well as increasing PD-1 expression on cancer cells. BMS and Nektar think that combining this with checkpoint inhibition could power up the anti-tumour immune response and extend the clinical benefits already seen with Opdivo on its own.

Under the terms of the deal, BMS will fund upwards of two thirds of the clinical programmes, on a scale depending on whether it is testing one or both of its drugs, and it will lead the global commercialisation of regimens that include NKTR-214, with Nektar retaining co-marketing rights in the US, major EU markets and Japan.

Nektar is also holding on to the rights to test its drug alongside other drugs - it already has an alliance in place with Takeda for example - but for the time being there are restrictions on collaborations that involve ‘overlapping mechanisms of action’.

Some analysts praised the deal, noting that it gives BMS a stake in a promising new immuno-oncology candidate without having to shell out big bucks for the entire company, although others said the price being paid for a minority profit share was steep, particularly as BMS will be funding the bulk of the clinical trials programme.

For BMS the risk could be worth it as it tries to defend Opdivo from Merck & Co’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and a slew of new checkpoint inhibitors reaching the market, particularly after its drug’s high-profile failure in first-line NSCLC.

Article by
Phil Taylor

15th February 2018

From: Research



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