BMS more likely to bet on bolt-ons after recent buying spree

Bristol Myers Squibb is not fully switching out of the buyer’s lane just yet after ending 2023 on a deal spree, but CEO Chris Boerner, Ph.D., said bolt-on moves are more likely the company’s speed in the near term. 

Boerner, speaking on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call (PDF) Friday, said business development remains a top priority, but, after spending a combined $18.1 billion across two late-December deals, the immediate focus now is on executing those deals. 

“Having said that, we certainly are going to continue to be interested in bringing innovation into the company that makes strategic and financial sense to do so,” he said. “I would characterize those a bit more as bolt-on opportunities at this point.” Boerner added there’s always room for partnerships and licensing deals. 

The big kahuna for BMS was its $14 billion acquisition of Karuna Therapeutics, taking hold of KarXT as it awaits a decision from the FDA as a potentially new treatment for schizophrenia. The drug is also in development as an adjunctive schizophrenia treatment and as a medication for Alzheimer’s disease psychosis, among other indications.

BMS Chief Medical Officer Samit Hirawat, M.D., said the psychosis trial is in the “beginning stages” and that doses are being tested now. He wouldn’t comment further until the acquisition closes, as the two companies continue to operate separately. 

Four days after announcing the Karuna buy, BMS doled out another $4.1 billion to etch its name into the tablet of radiopharmaceutical developers, snagging RayzeBio. Lead asset RYZ101 is currently in a phase 3 trial for patients with gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, with a primary completion date of July 2025. 

With the new acquisitions set to boost the workload, BMS also today tinkered and tweezed the peripheries of its pipeline. Officially gone was an asset from Ikena Oncology that BMS elected not to further develop, and the pharma’s TIGIT bispecific antibody is now solely focused on gastric cancer, its lead indication. Also deprioritized is a phase 1-stage BTK inhibitor for neuroscience.