Strong in Immune-Oncology, Bristol-Myers Squibb Branches into Cardiac Meds, Buys Cardioxyl for $2 Billion


November 2, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb Company announced today that it is acquiring Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Cardioxyl for up to about $2.07 billion.

Cardioxyl focuses on developing drugs for cardiovascular diseases. As part of the deal, Bristol-Myers Squib picks up the company’s lead asset, CXL-1427, a novel nitroxyl (HNO) donor (prodrug) that is currently in Phase II trials as an intravenous treatment for acute decompensated heart failure.

“The acquisition of Cardioxyl strengthens Bristol-Myers Squibb’s heart failure pipeline with a Phase II asset that has the potential to change the course of the disease rather than simply treating the symptoms,” said Francis Cuss, executive vice president and chief scientific officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb in a statement. “Bristol-Myers Squibb is uniquely positioned, with our understanding of patient needs in the hospital setting and our heritage in cardiovascular diseases, to continue development of CXL-1427 as a potential new therapy to address the clinical and economic burden of heart failure.”

The deal involves upfront and milestone payments of up to $300 million. Additional milestone payments could hit $1.775 billion. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

There has been some speculation that Bristol-Myers Squibb could be an acquisition target for Foster City, Calif.-based Gilead Sciences, Inc. , although Gilead may also be eying New Haven, Conn.-based Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. .

Bristol-Myers Squibb is currently working in the hot field of immune-oncology with a strong presence in the oncology market. The company has a deal with Bavarian Nordic A/S , and is planning a Phase II study on Bavarian Nordic’s Prostvac with Bristol-Myers’s Yervoy, a PD-1 inhibitor.

Just last week Bristol-Myers Squibb announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Yervoy (ipilimumab) for the adjuvant treatment of patients with cutaneous melanoma with pathologic involvement of regional lymph nodes. In a Phase III trial, Yervoy showed significant improvement in recurrence-free survival (RFS) versus placebo, with a 25 percent reduction in the risk of recurrence or death.

Bristol-Myers Squibb has been volatile this year. Shares traded on Dec. 16, 2014 for $57.69, rose to $66.31 on Mar. 18, 2015, spiked to $70.06 on July 14, then dropped to $57.30 on Sept. 4. Shares rose again to $67.59 on Oct. 28 and are currently trading for $66.23.

UBS recently gave the company a “buy” rating, up from a “neutral” rating. UBS increased the target price from $65 to $75, which was made on Sept. 29. On Friday, Forbes noted that the company’s third-quarter financial reporting was very strong compared to its peers, and posted positive growth despite currency movement and its negative impact. “In addition,” Forbes wrote, “the fact that Yervoy’s sales decline is perhaps not as important as Opdivo’s rise and that the latter should get much more weighting.”

Forbes also notes that the company’s cancer drugs are of particular interest “due to the sheer variety of cancer types and relatively low efficacy of existing drugs. Moreover, harvesting the body’s immune system has proven to be effective in terms of targeting and killing cancer cells.”

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