Bristol-Myers Squibb Acquires Cancer Drugmaker Flexus Bioscience

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) announced that it has acquired privately held drugmaker Flexus Bioscience Inc. for up to $1.25 billion, gaining control of an investigational immunotherapy.

The companies said that they have signed a definitive agreement, under which BMS will acquire all of the outstanding capital stock of Flexus, a company focused on the discovery and development of novel anti-cancer therapeutics. BMS is paying Flexus $800 million upfront, and promising milestone payments of up to $450 million based on predefined development milestones.

Both companies’ boards of directors have approved the transaction.

The transaction provides BMS with full rights to F001287, Flexus’ lead preclinical small molecule IDO1-inhibitor targeted for IND filing in the second half of 2015. BMS will also gain Flexus’ IDO/TDO discovery program, which includes IDO-selective, IDO/TDO dual and TDO-selective compound libraries. IDO and TDO are enzymes expressed by several tumor cells and cells in the surrounding microenvironment that suppress T-cell function by producing a potent immunosuppressive factor, kynurenine, thus inhibiting the immune system from identifying and destroying certain types of tumors. IDO/TDO inhibitors reduce production of kynurenine and therefore enables the immune system to attack tumors more effectively.

“Bristol-Myers Squibb is committed to leading scientific advances in immuno-oncology and our acquisition of Flexus will expand our innovative pipeline with an important approach to enhancing immune responses in cancer,” said Francis Cuss, MB BChir, FRCP, executive vice president and chief scientific officer, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “With the addition of a potentially best-in-class IDO1 inhibitor and the broad IDO/TDO programs, Bristol-Myers Squibb will accelerate its ability to explore numerous immunotherapeutic approaches across tumor types, including combinations with our biologic checkpoint and co-stimulatory agents that target different and complementary pathways.”

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015.

BMS also announced that it has entered into a collaboration agreement for the discovery, development and commercialization of cancer immunotherapies based on Rigel’s extensive portfolio of small molecule TGF beta receptor kinase inhibitors. The collaboration will focus on developing a new class of drugs aimed at increasing the immune system’s activity against various cancers either as a monotherapy or in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors, including BMS’ Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab). Under the agreement, BMS will pay $30 million upfront to Rigel. Additionally, the company will be eligible for up to $309 million for a successful compound approved in multiple indications, as well as tiered royalties on the net sales of any products that result from the collaboration.

“This collaboration places our TGF beta receptor kinase inhibitor program into the hands of Bristol-Myers Squibb, a premier immuno-oncology company. Together, we believe TGF beta inhibition may offer novel therapeutic opportunities in oncology treatments,” said Raul Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of Rigel. “Rigel has focused on immunology, and oncology via numerous partnerships. This collaboration is Rigel’s first in immuno-oncology and is one of the Company’s several programs in this area.”

Source: Bristol-Myers Squibb

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