BMS looks to RNA splicing to boost immunotherapies


Bristol-Myers Squibb’s quest to claim dominance in the immunotherapy space continues through a new collaboration with Eisai and its US-based precision medicine subsidiary H3 Biomedicine to evaluate whether drugs leveraging H3’s RNA splicing platform can provide a more powerful response against cancer.

The new, multi-year collaboration will explore modulating RNA splicing to develop potential first-in-class therapies that would direct the immune system to target cancer cells and help more patients experience the benefits of immunotherapy.

The news comes as BMS’ main rival in the immunotherapy sector, Merck, secured approval for even earlier use of its immuno-oncology drug Keytruda for melanoma in Europe, allowing it to compete in the space with BMS’ Opdivo, which had been approved for interim NHS funding in the same patient population just a few weeks previously.

Under the terms of the agreement, H3 and BMS will jointly conduct the research focused on developing immune therapies using H3’s platform. BMS will be responsible for development and commercialisation of selected compounds, and H3 is eligible to receive an upfront payment, development, regulatory and sales milestones as well as certain royalties according to sales revenue after launch.

Eisai retains an option to co-develop and co-commercialise certain compounds that emerge from the collaborative research effort.

“We are excited to enter into this collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb, as we share a mutual commitment to discover and develop innovations that will help improve outcomes for patients,” said Lihua Yu, president and chief data sciences officer at H3. “We believe this collaboration will help us better understand whether our RNA splicing platform can help enhance the immune system’s ability to more effectively fight cancer.”

Percy Carter, BMS’ head of discovery chemistry and molecular technologies, added: “H3 has deep expertise in defining the role of changes in RNA homeostasis that contribute to cancer. This collaboration will allow both companies to gain a deeper understanding about alterations in RNA splicing and an opportunity to discover new medicines that can potentially improve outcomes for patients.”

Last month BMS also announced it would be broadening its collaboration with Infinity Pharmaceuticals to trial a combination of Opdivo with Infinity’s IPI-549 in bladder cancer.