Daiichi Sankyo Offers $315M Up Front to Get Ambit and Leukemia Drug

Xconomy San Diego — 

Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo has agreed to acquire San Diego cancer drug developer Ambit Biosciences (NASDAQ: AMBI) for $315 million in cash, with additional milestone payments that could bring the total to $410 million.

The transaction comes just over a year after another big Japanese drug maker, Astellas Pharma, officially ended its four-year partnership with Ambit by transferring work on quizartinib, a drug for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), back to the San Diego biotech. Astellas announced about six months earlier that it decided to drop all rights for quizartinib and all other FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT-3) inhibitors covered by its 2009 pact with Ambit.

The buyout adds quizartinib, which is now in late-stage trials for treating a particularly aggressive form of AML, and the rest of Ambit’s drug pipeline to Daiichi Sankyo’s portfolio of cancer therapies. Three years ago, Daiichi Sankyo acquired Plexxikon, a Berkeley, CA-based melanoma drug developer, for $805 million up front and another $130 million in potential milestone payments. The company bought Germany’s U3 Pharma AG in 2008.

Daiichi Sankyo agreed to pay $15 a share for Ambit, and Ambit stockholders also have the right to get an additional payment of as much as $4.50 per share if certain milestones are reached, according to a joint statement issued overnight.

“The acquisition of Ambit Biosciences further builds our presence in oncology to ensure we are delivering on our goal of providing world-class, innovative pharmaceuticals in core areas of unmet medical need,” Daiichi Sankyo President and CEO Joji Nakayama said in the statement.