Amgen Snaps Up Five Prime for $1.9 Billion to Bolster Oncology Portfolio

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Shares of Five Prime Therapeutics were soaring this morning after Amgen announced it was acquiring the company and its Phase III ready anti-FGFR2b antibody bemarituzumab for $1.9 billion in cash. Amgen is eying an expansion of bemarituzumab into multiple oncology indications.

Amgen said the acquisition of Bay Area-based Five Prime and its innovative oncology assets will bolster its own cancer portfolio. Amgen acquired the company for $38 per share. This morning, share prices soared 38% to trade at $37.91 as of 10 a.m. When the transaction is complete, Five Prime will merge with a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amgen.

Five Prime’s lead asset bemarituzumab is a first-in-class, Phase III ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. The asset demonstrated statistical significance in a Phase II study in frontline advanced gastric or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. All three efficacy endpoints, progression free survival, overall survival and overall response rate, were met, the company announced in November.

Bemarituzumab targets FGFR2b, which has been found to be overexpressed in approximately 30% of patients with non-HER2 positive gastric cancer, as well as other solid tumors. Additional analysis from the Phase II study showed a positive correlation between efficacy and expression of FGFR2b on tumor cells, confirming both the importance of the FGFR2b target and the activity of bemarituzumab against this target. In its announcement this morning, Amgen said that correlation suggests that FGFR2b could play a role in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers. 

“The acquisition of Five Prime offers a compelling opportunity for Amgen to strengthen our oncology portfolio with a promising late-stage, first-in-class global asset to treat gastric cancer," Robert A. Bradway, chairman and chief executive officer at Amgen said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming the Five Prime team to Amgen and working with them to leverage our best-in-class monoclonal antibody manufacturing capabilities to supply additional clinical materials, as well as expanded production quantities, to realize the full potential of bemarituzumab for even more patients around the world as quickly as possible.”

Five Prime's additional innovative pipeline programs complement Amgen's efforts to bring meaningful therapies to oncology patients, the company said.

Five Prime CEO Tom Civik called the acquisition an “exciting day” for cancer patients who could benefit from potential approval of bemarituzumab and the company’s other oncology assets. He said he is confident Amgen is the right company to merge with and help bring its assets to market for patient.

“We see tremendous complementarity between the two companies. Amgen has global reach, world-class resources, and they share our deep passion for science and commitment to patients,” Civik said in a statement.

Amgen also said the Five Prime acquisition supports its international expansion strategy. One of the most common forms of cancer is gastric cancer, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Amgen expects to see that area become an important market for medications like bemarituzumab. In preparation for potential marketing of bemarituzumab, Amgen said it will leverage its presence in Japan and other Asia-Pacific markets to maximize bemarituzumab's potential.

Five Prime had partnered with Zai Lab Limited on the development of bemarituzumab. Zai Lab has rights to market the asset in China upon approval. Amgen said it will receive royalties from those sales under terms of the acquisition.  

Amgen’s acquisition comes on some tumultuous years at Five Prime. The company lost its chief executive officer and underwent two restructuring plans. When the company initiated its second restructuring in October 2019, Five Prime eliminated 70 jobs and reduce its corporate facilities footprint. In January 2019, the company eliminated 41 positions, about 20% of its staff, in a restructuring.

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