Bristol-Myers Squibb wants to strengthen its immuno-oncology even further. For this, it is acquiring Cormorant – a Biotech developing immunotherapies in a deal that could go up to €460M.

cormorant bms immuno oncology interleukin 8Based at the Karolinska Institute Science Park in Stockholm (Sweden), Cormorant was a private Biotech focusing on cancer immunotherapies.

Its main program was HuMax-IL8, which is currently in Phase I/II trials. This therapeutic antibody targets interleukin-8 (IL-8), a protein is expressed by many solid tumors. IL-8 also suppresses the immune system and increases the ability of tumors to metastasize.

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cormorant humax-il8 interleukin 8 metastatic cancer

Fig. 1: Role of interleukin (IL)8 in the spread of cancer.

Actually, this particular candidate had been acquired from Genmab (Denmark) in 2012. In 2014, the two companies had also entered a collaboration for new anti-IL8 candidates with the DuoBody technology – quite popular with Pharma and Biotech.

Now, this IL-8 program will end up in the hands of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). This NY-based Pharma is acquiring Cormorant for around €85M ($95M) in upfront and close milestones payments. But there’s still another €385M on the table, for long-term development and regulatory milestones.

The therapies can enhance immune response and increase the efficacy of existing cancer medicines through combination therapy – a key strategy in cancer immunotherapies. So, BMS would have the possibility to combine these new candidates with its extensive oncology pipeline.

immuno-oncology_nature_reviews_cancer_250_immunotherapies_leiden_lumc_isa_pharmaceuticals

Fig 2: How the immune system targets tumors. Dendritic cells collect antigens from cancer cells and activate T-cells (CD4 and CD8), that attack the tumor.

In fact, BMS is one of the big contenders in the immuno-oncology race. It’s in several joint programs (such as Innate Pharma and Life Science Partners) and has a ‘rockstar’ therapy – Opdivo (nivolumab). This was the second checkpoint inhibitor to ever be approved (after MSD’s Keytruda) and is prescribed for melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer.

Just recently, it was announced that Opdivo will be combined with a blockbuster oncolytic therapySo it seems likely HuMax-IL8 will have a similar future…


Feature Image Credit: Dividing breast cancer cell © Royalty Stock Photo (BigStock ID93129902)
Figure 1 Credit: Pelena et al. (2012) Influence of IL-8 on the epithelial-mesenchymal transition and the tumor microenvironment. Future Oncology (doi: 10.2217/fon.12.59)
Figure 2 Credit: Prieto et. all (2015) Immunological landscape and immunotherapy of hepatocellular carcinoma. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology (doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2015.173)

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