Week's news analysis

Bristol-Myers-Squibb's come back in cardiovascular

By The Editor - 8 october 2020

Who's next to catch the big pharma deal train? Definitely Bristol-Myers-Squibb is. On October 5th, the American company penned its second large deal in two years, with the acquisition of biotech firm MyoKardia Inc., specialized in cardiovascular, for $13.1 billion. Bristol-Myers-Squibb Chief Executive, Giovanni Caforio, wanted to lessen reliance on oncology but he surprised analysts as the company had slimmed in heart therapies for ten years roughly.

The main interest of MyoKardia is its promising experimental heart drug, mavacamten, which if approved could to turn into a multibillion-dollar seller. BMO Capital Markets analysts forecast more than $1.5 billion in worldwide sales by 2025. Mavacamten is "a potential first-in-class cardiovascular medicine" for the treatment of obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy ("HCM"), a chronic heart disease with high morbidity and patient impact. The disease can cause irregular heart rhythms in some patients and even death.

Bristol-Myers-Squibb is betting the drug will be cleared beginning of 2021, and will bolster its portfolio of heart drugs, including the blood thinner Eliquis. This drug generated $8 billion in sales last year for Bristol-Myers-Squibb and partner Pfizer Inc. This deal followed Novartis's purchase of The Medicines Company, Another cardiovascular- focused deal, for $9.7 billion last year.

MyoKardia acquisition may also be a signal that deals in the field of cancer may have come to an end. "The more -than $150 billion global market for cancer drugs has been a focus of the pharmaceutical industry", writes The Wall Street Journal, but with the risk of becoming too dependent on oncology drugs. It was the case of Bristol-Myers-Squibb after buying multiple-myeloma drug leader Celgene last year, in a historical deal worth up to $74 billion. Since then, more than $16 billion of Bristol's roughly $20 billion in sales during the first half of this year have ben from cancer therapies.

During the summer though, Bristol-Myers-Squibb inked two additional deals in oncology: the first one with Dragon Fly to develop its lead cancer immunotherapy ($475 million upfront payment); and the second one to buy Canadian biotech Forbius and its drug candidate AVID200, a TGF-beta 1 and 3 inhibitor.

The company's portfolio clearly needed to be diversified and broadened as Celgene'stop selling products, multiple-myeloma therapy Revlimid is expected to loose patent protection in 2022, whereas immunotherapy drug, Opdivo that treats lung, skin and other tumors, is facing heavier competition from Merck & Co.'s rival drug Keytruda.

If MyoKardia's drug is approved Bristol-Myers-Squibb would then have strong positions in the different markets for drugs treating heart conditions and immunological diseases, as well as blood cancers and solid tumors like lung cancer, Giovanni Caforio said.

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