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BMS partners again with the company behind Opdivo

Published on 14/12/17 at 02:59pm

Bristol-Myers Squibb has once again struck a deal with Ono Pharmaceutical for multiple programs, seeking to discover a boost to immunotherapy blockbuster Opdivo.

Back in 2011, BMS made the decision to partner with Ono on nivolumab, a choice that would prove financially lucrative to both companies. The immunotherapy prospect became Opdivo – a treatment that scored $1.2 billion in revenue in the third quarter alone.

The new drug candidate that comes as part of the new deal could well be used in conjunction with Opdivo in the future, should development prove successful.

ONO-4578 is a selective Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) receptor 4 (EP4) antagonist. The drug candidate is an immunosuppressive factor in the tumour microenvironment, which is believed to play a role in supressing tumour immunity and promoting tumour progression.

Ono noted that pre-clinical data suggests it “may complement immune-oncology therapies, including anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4, and potentially increase both the rate and durability of response in tumours that are refractory to immunotherapy.”

BMS is paying $40 million up front for the prospect it could boost Opdivo’s efficacy, as well as for the rights to identify additional compounds it would like to cherry-pick from the Ono’s PGE2 receptor antagonist portfolio.

Ono will receive clinical, regulatory and sales-based milestone payments as its part of the deal, as well as holding the possibility of gaining royalties where BMS holds the commercial license.

“To improve long-term outcomes for more patients with cancer, we believe more immuno-oncology based combinations may be required, and we are pleased to continue our long-standing collaboration with Ono with this focus in mind,” said Fouad Namouni, Head of Development, Oncology, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “Ono’s Prostaglandin E2 receptor antagonist programs offer the potential to develop targeted therapies that counteract the effects of an immunosuppressive tumour microenvironment. Researching Prostaglandin E2 receptor antagonists in combination with our oncology portfolio has the potential to result in an enhanced response in a broad range of tumours.”

With the news that Sanofi and Regeneron have received positive data for its own PD-1 drug in skin cancer, the PD-1/L-1 market is looking increasingly crowded. Monotherapies will no longer be enough to differentiate one from another, companies are now increasingly looking to combination treatments to pull ahead.

Ben Hargreaves

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