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Gilead bolsters cancer drug portfolio in $510M buyout of YM Bio

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Gilead Sciences ($GILD) wants a bigger stake in the massive cancer drugs business, building on the Foster City, CA-based company's large footprint in anti-HIV and virology treatments. And today the major drugmaker announced a $510 million cash buyout of Canada's YM BioSciences ($YMI) in a deal that includes a lead JAK inhibitor candidate for combatting blood diseases.

Ontario-based YM Bio has built strong evidence in early- and midstage development of CYT387, an oral blocker of the JAK1 and JAK2 enzymes, in treating a condition known as myelofibrosis. Gilead, which expects to close on its buyout of YM in early 2013, plans to advance the candidate into pivotal Phase III development in myelofibrosis. In patients with the disease, mutated stem cells in bone marrow trigger scarring in the marrow and abnormal production of blood cells, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Gilead has been building a reputation for buying its way into hot therapeutic areas, as the company did in announcing an $11 billion buyout of Pharmasset last year to gain an edge in the race for all-oral hepatitis C treatments. In oncology, the company last year struck a potential $100 million alliance deal with cancer experts at Yale University and has recruited top talent to usher along its development-stage efforts, which include the lead compound idelalisib, a PIK3 delta isoform inhibitor in 5 late-stage studies for chronic lymphoblastic leukemia and indolent non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Gilead's buyout of YM Bio marks a positive outcome for the company and its investors. The company has been slow to jump into a late-stage trial for its lead candidate CYT387, as The Street reported, and Gilead brings financial might and development capabilities to run large Phase III programs. Gilead also brings some experience in myelofibrosis, one of several conditions and cancers targeted in a Phase II program for its antibody candidate simtuzumab.

"This acquisition represents an opportunity to add a complementary clinical program in the area of hematologic cancers to our growing oncology portfolio," Norbert Bischofberger, Gilead's head of R&D, said in a statement. "Based on promising Phase 2 data, we believe CYT387 could provide important clinical benefit for patients with myelofibrosis, including potential improvements with regard to anemia and decreased dependence on blood transfusions."

YM's lead drug also presents a potential rival to Incyte ($INCY) and Novartis' ($NVS) JAK inhibitor Jakafi, which the FDA approved last year to combat myelofibrosis. And Cell Therapeutics has its own midstage program focused on the blood disease.

- here's the release
- see The Street's article

Special Report: Gilead Sciences - The Biggest R&D Spenders in Biotech

Related Articles:
YM gets boost after posting promising anemia data on myelofibrosis drug
Gilead leaps to first PhIII success for all-oral hepatitis C drug program
Cell Therapeutics lands myelofibrosis drug with $30M upfront

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