Bristol-Myers Squibb Boosts Cancer Drug Pipeline with Cormorant Deal

Xconomy New York — 

Bristol-Myers Squibb has acquired cancer and rare disease drug developer Cormorant Pharmaceuticals, a deal that includes an early-stage cancer compound that could complement the way Bristol’s own immune-oncology treatments work.

New York-based Bristol (NYSE: BMY) said Tuesday that it has acquired all of the outstanding stock of privately held Cormorant for $95 million in up front and unspecified near-term milestones payments. If Bristol hits development and regulatory milestones, the company could pay Stockholm, Sweden-based Cormorant up to $425 million more.

Key to the deal is Cormorant’s lead drug candidate, HuMax-IL8, a monoclonal antibody in Phase 1/2 clinical trials that targets the IL-8 protein, a protein found on many solid tumors that has the effect of suppressing the immune system. Bristol says that by targeting this protein, the Cormorant compound could be used in combination with existing cancer drugs, offering the potential of enhancing the immune response and boosting the efficacy of the treatment.

“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,” Francis Cuss, Bristol’s executive vice president and chief scientific officer, said in a prepared statement.

Bristol’s drug portfolio includes nivolumab (Opdivo), a drug that the FDA approved last year for lung cancer. But Bristol did not say whether its plans include clinical trials testing the Cormorant compound in combination with nivolumab or other cancer drugs.

Cormorant had licensed the rights to HuMax-IL8 from Danish biotechnology company Genmab in 2012. The boards of directors of both Bristol and Cormorant have already approved the deal, as have the stockholders of Cormorant.