Ambrx banks $24M BMS check as it adds two new development deals

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) is handing Ambrx an upfront payment of $24 million to buy itself a ticket to ride on the La Jolla, CA-based biotech's discovery platform. Adding to a string of collaborations that Ambrx--a 2005 Fierce 15 company--has managed to strike over the years, BMS wants to explore the potential of two of the biotech's preclinical programs in treating diabetes and heart failure.

BMS also agreed to an unspecified set of milestones on the two projects. One is centered on FGF-21, a naturally occurring protein that has a track record on lowering blood glucose, spiking good cholesterol and spurring weight loss in preclinical studies. A lead therapy, ARX618, is wrapping up preclinical work. The other program will focus on the potential of Relaxin--a hormone that plays a role in childbirth and at the preclinical stage looks promising for improving cardiac function.

"These programs have shown tremendous potential in preclinical studies, and we believe that Bristol-Myers Squibb has the necessary expertise to best lead their continued development," says business development chief Simon Allen. "We look forward to using the revenues from this partnership to continue to grow our internal pipeline, which includes our promising antibody drug conjugate programs."

Ambrx was founded back in 2003 on the protein work completed by Scripps investigator Peter Schultz. Since then it has struck a long roster of development deals to help fund the company with Big Pharma players like Eli Lilly and Merck KGaA. And it's lured in more than $100 million in venture cash.

CEO Steve Kaldor left the company last year and the biotech's web site still shows no replacement for him, unusual for a biotech of its size.

- here's the BMS release