IFM Therapeutics to be acquired for just over $1B

Bristol-Myers Squibb has its eye on company's innate immunity program for its own oncology pipeline

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NEW YORK & BOSTON—Bristol-Myers Squibb has been putting more energy into leveraging external innovation to expand and develop its portfolio of transformative medicines and, in that vein, it signed an agreement recently to acquire all of the outstanding capital stock of IFM Therapeutics, a venture-backed biotech company focused on developing therapies that modulate novel targets in the innate immune system to treat cancer, autoimmunity and inflammatory disorders. IFM Therapeutics would receive $300 million upfront, with the potential of up to $1.01 billion in milestones for each of the first products from the two programs.
The acquisition will give Bristol-Myers Squibb full rights to IFM’s preclinical STING (stimulator of interferon genes) and NLRP3 agonist programs. STING is a major controller in the innate immune system, and a lead STING asset in IFM’s pipeline could potentially accelerate Bristol-Myers Squibb’s own efforts to target the STING pathway. Also, IFM’s NLRP3 agonist program includes a potential first-in-class pipeline candidate.
Although the innate immunity work of IFM is applicable to cancer, autoimmunity and inflammatory disorders, Bristol-Myers Squibb seems more acutely focused on the cancer angle right now.
“Targeting innate immunity pathways represents a potentially differentiated approach in immuno-oncology designed to initiate and augment immune responses that may help the body’s natural defenses better recognize and attack tumors,” said Dr. Thomas Lynch Jr., executive vice president and chief scientific officer for Bristol-Myers Squibb. “The addition of STING and NLRP3 agonist programs broadens our ability to investigate additional pathways across the immune system and complements our immuno-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.”
“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,” according to Dr. Gary D. Glick, CEO and co-founder of IFM. “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.”
In connection with the acquisition, a newly formed entity will be established by the current shareholders of IFM—IFM Therapeutics LLC—and it will retain IFM’s current personnel and facilities, as well as its remaining research programs, which include an NLRP3 antagonist program focused on curbing immune responses that lead to inflammatory diseases and fibrosis. In consideration of an additional payment at closing and future investment, Bristol-Myers Squibb will be granted at closing certain rights against the newly formed entity’s NLRP3 antagonist program, including a right of first refusal.
The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and by the stockholders of IFM. Bristol-Myers Squibb and IFM anticipate the transaction will close during the third quarter of 2017, subject to customary closing conditions, including clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.

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