This Boston Biotech Just Got Scooped Up for $300M By Bristol-Myers Squibb

This Boston Biotech Just Got Scooped Up for $300M By Bristol-Myers Squibb August 4, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Bristol-Myers Squibb is buying privately-held IFM Therapeutics for $300 million upfront in a deal that could be worth more than $2.3 billion.

IFM Therapeutics focuses on developing drugs that modulate the innate immune system in order to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases, and inflammatory disorders. BMY will gain full rights to IFM’s preclinical STING (stimulator of interferon genes) and NLRP3 agonist programs.

“Targeting innate immunity pathways represents a potentially differentiated approach in immune-oncology designed to initiate and augment immune responses that may help the body’s natural defenses better recognize and attack tumors,” said Thomas Lynch, BMY’s executive vice president and chief scientific officer, in a statement. “The addition of STING and NLRP3 agonist programs broadens our ability to investigate additional pathways across the immune system and complements our immune-oncology portfolio. We look forward to advancing the development of these important programs initiated by Gary Glick, his leadership team and leading academic and industry experts across immunology and oncology.”

It’s not quite that straightforward of a deal. In addition to the $300 million upfront, there are contingent payments up to $1.01 billion for each of the first products from the two programs. There are also milestone payments possible.

John Carroll, writing for Endpoints News, also adds, “Bristol-Myers researchers are now carving out the work the biotech has done on two programs promoting an innate immune response to cancer, and spinning out the significant remainder into a new company also helmed by IFM co-founder Gary Glick.”

The two programs are likely to be complementary to Bristol-Myers’ top PD-1 drug Opdivo. Innate immunity, which is what STING and NLRP3 are involved with, act as a first line of defense against pathogens, and can recruit other immune cells. Opdivo and other PD-1 drugs prevent cancer cells from hiding from the immune system.

Carroll writes, “The biotech now will go on to concentrate on the flip side of that coin: Reining back innate immune attacks, tamping down cytokine production and reduce chronic inflammation tied to auto-inflammatory conditions like NASH, IBD and gout. And that work includes NLRP3 and some related members of the NLR family.”

“A comprehensive body of preclinical data support the continued research of IFM’s NLRP3 and STING agonists with a goal of uncovering their potential benefit to patients, particularly those not served by currently available cancer immunotherapeutics,” says Glick in a statement. “Based on its deep expertise and leadership positions in immunology, oncology, and immuno-oncology, Bristol-Myers Squibb is uniquely positioned to accelerate these programs and maximize their potential.”

Bristol-Myers is likely viewing this as a way to boost its cancer portfolio, which is losing the race against Merck and Co. ’s Keytruda. In March, Bristol-Myers Squibb also partnered with CytomX in a deal that could hit $3.8 billion. CytomX is focused on using probodies, which in theory activate a drug only when it’s near its disease tissue target. This would reduce side effects.

About a year ago Atlas Ventures, along with Abingworth and Bristol-Myers, invested $27 million in a Series A round. Carroll writes, “For Bristol-Myers, which is looking to reignite its once-dominant checkpoint effort, it represents another opportunity to steal a march against a slew of rivals all looking to second- and third-generation tie-ups as they angle to keep and grow a major segment of the market. Its business development group under Paul Biondi has a cold and steady eye when it comes to tech deals, looking for ways to gain an advantage in core fields through this kind of external acquisition.”

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