Last week saw a record-breaking licensing deal as well as another billion-dollar M&A.
Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) broke records for the highest licensing fee with its potential $3.8 billion deal with Nektar Therapeutics last Wednesday. The immuno-oncology front-runner BMS will pay Nektar $1.85 billion upfront (including $850 million for Nektar stock) to develop Nektar’s NKTR-214 with its immune checkpoint inhibitors Opdivo and Yervoy, and up to $1.78 billion in milestones through a program that will cover 12 indications associated with 9 tumors. BMS will gain 35% rights to future revenue from NKTR-214, and will also pay more than two-thirds of the clinical trial costs for the program. NKTR-214 — an engineered form of the cytokine IL-2 that boosts the response of immune cells against cancer by activating IL-2 signalling in a more targeted way than IL-2 itself — is currently in phase 1/2 trials as part of a collaboration between BMS and Nektar that begun in 2016.
In another major oncology deal, Roche agreed to acquire the technology company Flatiron Health (which it already owned a ~13% share in) for $1.9 billion. Flatiron specialises in oncology-focused electronic health record (EHR) software and has strong links to Google; it was established by two ex-Google employees and backed by Alphabet GV (previously Google Ventures). Flatiron will continue its operations as a separate legal entity, and will work with Roche on advancing the use of real-world evidence in oncology R&D.
After the recent success of the pioneering gene therapy Luxturna, the field was again in the spotlight with Oxford Biomedica’s $100 million deal with Bioverativ, a hemophilia specialist company that was recently acquired by Sanofi for $11.6 billion. Under the agreement, which includes a $5 million upfront fee, Oxford Biomedica will develop and manufacture lentiviral vectors for gene therapy applications for Bioverativ. The deal could also bring Oxford Biomedica milestone payments potentially worth more than $100 million and undisclosed royalty payments if Bioverativ’s hemophilia products make it to market.
Finally, Roivant swooped in to provide a long-sought partner for Poxel in bearing the costs of the phase 3 trials for Poxel’s potential first-in-class diabetes drug imeglimin, which blocks oxidative phosphorylation. Roivant will pay $35 million upfront and take a $15 million (6%) stake in Poxel in return for rights to the drug outside Japan and China amongst other Asian countries, and plans to move the drug into phase 3 trials in Europe and the United States next year. Poxel (a spin-out from Merck KGaA) could receive up to $600 million in milestone payments, and will contribute $25 million to the clinical trials.