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BMS signs $975m deal for Bavarian Nordic cancer vaccine

Furthers prominent position in immuno-oncology with Prostvac

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) buildingBristol-Myers Squibb has consolidated its position in the emerging immuno-oncology sector with a $975m deal to license Bavarian Nordic's prostate cancer candidate Prostvac.

BMS is paying $60m upfront for rights to the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) targeting immunotherapy, which is currently in phase III testing and is designed to stimulate an immune response against prostate cancer cells.

Unlike Dendreon's prostate cancer vaccine Provenge (sipuleucel-T), which is being acquired by Valeant despite a lacklustre showing in the market, Prostvac is ready-to-use and does not require tumour cells from the patient to be harvested.

The immunotherapy sits well alongside BMS' melanoma therapy Yervoy (ipilimumab), which is also in late-stage testing in prostate cancer and will be combined with Prostvac in a future phase II trial.

BMS has taken an option to license Prostvac - which would provide another $80m to Denmark-based Bavarian Nordic if exercised - with another $230m in the offing if the immunotherapy does well in phase III and outperforms the survival benefits seen in an earlier phase II trial.

Furthermore, Bavarian Nordic could also receive regulatory milestone payments of $110m, up to $495m in sales milestones as well as tiered double-digit royalties on future sales of Prostvac. The deal with the Danish company comes hard on the heels of BMS $1.2bn deal to acquire Flexus Biosciences, another cancer drug developer. 

Analysts at Edison Research have predicted that Prostvac could eventually achieve sales of $1.3bn at peak - assuming a treatment price of $50,000 a year. 

There is increasing interest in harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, both through the use of immune-targeting drugs such as BMS' Yervoy and checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab) - just approved for melanoma and just filed for lung cancer - as well as through more traditional vaccine-like approaches.

Last year for example, Boehringer Ingelheim licensed rights to CureVac's investigational therapeutic cancer vaccine CV9202 - which it plans to test alongside its Giotrif (afatinib) product - while Argos Therapeutics and Northwest Biotherapeutics are developing candidates for kidney and brain cancer, respectively.

However, lung cancer vaccines developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Merck KGaA failed to show a benefit in late-stage trials.

Article by
Phil Taylor

4th March 2015

From: Sales

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