BMS looks for cancer combos with Cormorant buy

Bristol-Myers Squibb is to buy privately owned cancer specialist Cormorant for up to $520 million, as it searches for medicines that could be used in combination with immuno-oncology therapies such as its own Opdivo.

BMS said that the deal gives full access to the Stockholm-based firm’s HuMax-IL8 antibodies and lead candidate HuMax-IL8, a phase 1-2 monoclonal antibody targeted against interleukin-8.

This immuno-oncology treatment could be used in tandem with T-cell directed antibodies and co-stimulatory molecules.

BMS is looking for medicines that could work in concert with its suite of immuno-oncology drugs.

Its already marketed Opdivo (nivolumab) works by instructing T-cells from the body’s immune system to attack cancer.

Opdivo has been approved in combination with BMS’ own Yervoy (ipilimumab) in melanoma in the US and Europe.

IL-8 is a protein expressed by many solid tumours within the tumour microenvironment that suppresses the immune system and increases the ability of tumours to metastasise.

By targeting IL-8, HuMax-IL8 could enhance immune response and increase the efficacy of existing cancer medicines through combination therapy.

The rights to HuMax-IL8 were acquired by Cormorant from Genmab in 2012 under an exclusive license agreement.

The transaction includes upfront and near term contingent milestone payments of up to $95 million plus payments of up to $425 million if Bristol-Myers Squibb achieves certain development and regulatory milestones.

The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and by the stockholders of Cormorant.

Francis Cuss, executive vice president and chief scientific officer at BMS, said: “We believe combination therapy will be foundational to delivering the potential for long-term survival for patients, and the opportunity to develop the HuMax-IL8 antibody program together with our broad immuno-oncology pipeline enables us to accelerate the next wave of potentially transformational immunotherapies.”

Cormorant’s chief executive, Maarten de Chateau, said BMS’ pipeline and approved drugs provide “potential for therapeutic synergy when coupled with HuMax-IL8.”