BMS adds to IBD pipeline with $1.9bn GentiBio deal

Bristol-Myers Squibb has formed an R&D partnership with GentiBio, aimed at developing regulatory T cel (Treg) therapies for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The deal includes an undisclosed upfront payment from BMS, with GentiBio also in line to receive milestone payments of up to $1.9 billion, as well as royalties on any future sales.

The partners will work on Treg therapies that can “re-establish immune tolerance and repair tissue” in IBD patients like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, said GentiBio in a statement.

The biotech will use its expertise to produce “stable and disease-specific” Tregs against multiple targets, with BMS contributing its know-how on cell-based therapies. The big pharma has the right to take up to three programmes into clinical trials.

Tregs have been shown to inhibit T cell proliferation and cytokine production and are thought to play a critical role in preventing autoimmunity.

GentiBio chief executive Adel Nada said that “unlike existing therapies, Tregs have the unique potential to re-establish immune tolerance in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.”

BMS is steadily building a position in IBD through drugs like oral S1P receptor modulator Zeposia (ozanimod), approved for ulcerative colitis as well as multiple sclerosis, and experimental TYK2 inhibitor deucravacitinib.

Zeposia was approved for ulcerative colitis in May 2021, and the new indication is credited with helping sales more than double to $66 million in the second quarter of this year. The company has suggested peak sales could reach $5 billion if its indications can be extended to conclude Crohn’s and other inflammatory diseases

Deucravacitinib meanwhile is more of an unknown quantity, having already missed the mark in the mid-stage LATTICE-UC trial in ulcerative colitis last year.

The orally-active drug is currently under FDA review for psoriasis, with a decision due on 10 September, and BMS has said it remains committed to developing it for IBD.

It is hoping that a phase 2 trial in ulcerative colitis called IM011-127, which is using a higher dose of the drug and is due to generate results next year, will set the programme back on track. Deucravacitinib, meanwhile, is also in a phase 2 study in Crohn’s.

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