Bristol-Myers Squibb, Five Prime take aim at immune checkpoints

Companies will develop therapies against targets discovered in two pathways

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SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO & NEW YORK—Five Prime Therapeutics, Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. have announced the establishment of a collaboration agreement to discover, develop and commercialize immuno-oncology therapies. The therapies will developed against targets discovered in two immune checkpoint pathways with Five Prime’s proprietary target discovery platform.
Per the terms of the agreement, Bristol-Myers Squibb will receive exclusive, worldwide rights to develop and commercialize products directed against certain protein targets identified by Five Prime before and during their collaboration. In return, Bristol-Myers Squibb will pay Five Prime $20 million up front, as well as up to $9.5 million in research funding over the duration of the research term. Bristol-Myers Squibb will also pay approximately $21 million to acquire 4.9 percent of Five Prime’s outstanding common stock, which will be purchased at a premium of approximately 30 percent. Five Prime will be eligible for up to $300 million in potential development-, regulatory- and sales-based milestone payments per collaboration target, as well as tiered mid-single-digit rising to low-double-digit royalty payments on net sales of each product that results and is commercialized by Bristol-Myers Squibb.
“We are thrilled to enter this important collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb, an undisputed leader in the exciting field of immuno-oncology,” Lewis T. “Rusty” Williams, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Five Prime, said in a press release regarding the deal. “This strategic alliance is evidence that our protein discovery platform is ideally suited to identify novel immune checkpoint targets for the development of next generation immuno-oncology therapeutics.”
Bristol-Myers Squibb will utilize Five Prime’s platform to move its existing immuno-oncology programs forward by identifying the most promising drug targets for further research and development. The drug candidates developed against said targets can be investigated as either single agents or in combination with other existing or potential immuno-oncology therapies from Bristol-Myers Squibb.
“Immuno-oncology has the potential to be transformational in the treatment of cancer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb has an extensive clinical pipeline and discovery programs dedicated to maximizing this field of research,” Francis Cuss, MB BChir, FRCP, executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb, commented in a statement. “Five Prime’s innovative technology platforms complement our immuno-oncology pipeline and will help expand our understanding of promising new therapeutic options for patients.”
Immune checkpoints have become a popular target of late in the growing field of immuno-oncology, with several partnerships focused around such molecules being announced in the past few months. Inserm Transfert, the private subsidiary of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), and GlaxoSmithKline signed an exclusive worldwide license agreement to develop therapeutic antibodies against an immune checkpoint molecule in late December (see ‘Proactive product discovery’). In early March, Ablynx and a subsidiary of Merck & Co. inked a second research collaboration and licensing agreement to discovery and develop predefined Nanobody candidates, both bi- and tri-specifics, that work against immune checkpoint modulators (see ‘A new indication on the second go-round’). Just days later, The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Agenus Inc. announced that they had selected a trio of monoclonal antibody checkpoint modulators that Agenus will be advancing into preclinical development (see ‘Ludwig, Agenus move forward with oncology antibodies’).

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