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Servier agrees to buy Symphogen to swell its cancer pipeline

Takeover deal will make Danish biotech its main antibody development unit

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France’s Servier has made a play to buy its partner Symphogen in a takeover deal that will make the Danish biotech its main antibody development unit.

The financial terms of the deal remain under wraps, but Servier said that it would strengthen its capabilities in antibody-based drugs and help it to become “a recognised player in oncology”, according to the French company’s president Olivier Laureau.

Symphogen will operate as an independent division within the Servier group, and Servier says there will be little impact on its current workforce. It seems the takeover has been brewing for several months.

The two companies have effectively been working together for four years, albeit via a meandering path. Symphogen signed a licensing deal with Baxter spin-off Baxalta in 2016 – focusing on cancer – shortly before its $32bn merger with Shire.

Servier acquired Shire’s oncology business two years later in a deal valued at $2.4bn, thereby inheriting the Symphogen alliance which at the time was valued at DKK9bn ($1.3bn) in upfront and milestone payments.

The $1.6bn alliance covered six immuno-oncology drug candidates, three in early-stage clinical trials for patients with solid tumours or lymphomas and three in the drug discovery phase.

Now, Servier can claim Symphogen’s entire pipeline, which includes six in-house clinical-stage projects and six in discovery or preclinical development.

That includes Sym004, a ‘phase 3 ready’ combination of two antibodies – futuximab and modotuximab – which bind to different, non-overlapping regions of the EGFR molecule and is in development for indications like colorectal cancer.

Sym004 missed its main objective in a phase 2b trial reported in 2017, but Symphogen reckons it still has potential in subpopulations of colorectal cancer patients with specific tumour mutations.

Slightly behind in development is Sym015, a combination of two MET-targeting antibodies in a phase 2a trial involving patients with MET-positive tumours including lung adenocarcinomas, as well as stomach, kidney and colorectal cancers.

Servier’s in-house cancer portfolio is headed by its Lonsurf combination of two small-molecule drugs – trifluridine and tipiracil – which is approved as a second-line treatment for colorectal cancer and is in phase 3 testing for first-line use in previously-untreated patients.

It also has a liposomal formulation of established cancer drug irinotecan in mid-stage development for solid tumours, and a clutch of small-molecule, bispecific antibody and CAR-T therapies in phase 1.

Cancer drugs currently account for 13% of revenues, well behind its biggest cardiovascular franchise which made up more than half of Servier’s total €4.6bn sales in fiscal 2018/19, but oncology is expected to gain ground in the coming years.

Article by
Phil Taylor

7th April 2020

From: Research

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