Bristol-Myers inks a blockbuster $1.74B deal for an Opdivo combo drug

Five Prime CEO Rusty Williams

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) has struck a $1.74 billion deal--fronted with a $350 million cash buy-in--to grab worldwide rights to an early-stage anti-immunosuppression drug from Five Prime that can be combined with its pioneering checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo.

In the deal Bristol-Myers is snagging San Francisco-based Five Prime's colony stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) antibody program, including FPA008, a drug that blocks a key mediator--tumor-associated macrophages--that blunts an immune response to cancer cells. That makes it an ideal combination therapy with Bristol-Myers' Opdivo, which dismantles a mechanism that prevents a T cell attack on cancer.

Five Prime's shares ($FPRX) rocketed up 78% in premarket trading this morning.

The deal marks yet another major collaboration in the immuno-oncology field, which has inspired dozens of partnerships and acquisitions over the past two years. And the pact provides fresh evidence that the leaders in the field are willing to gamble big sums in order to keep driving new advances in the clinic.

In this case Bristol-Myers has agreed to pay up to $1.05 billion in development and regulatory milestones to Five Prime, along with up to $340 million in development and regulatory milestone payments per anti-CSF1R product for non-oncology indications, as well as double digit royalties.

In the pact, which expands a combination deal set up in late 2014, Five Prime will continue to handle the ongoing Phase Ia/Ib trial underway, which matches Opdivo and FPA008. Five Prime--a 2004 Fierce 15 company--also retains co-promotion rights in the U.S.

Lewis T. "Rusty" Williams, president and chief executive officer of Five Prime Therapeutics, called it a "transformational" deal for his company.

"Bristol-Myers Squibb has undisputed leadership in the immuno-oncology landscape, deep clinical development and regulatory expertise, and an established commercial infrastructure to deliver important new therapies to patients," he said in a statement. "Bristol-Myers Squibb also has a rich pipeline of clinical candidates and approved products, a number of which may have therapeutic synergy when coupled with FPA008, given the potential of CSF1R inhibition to suppress the activity and survival of tumor associated macrophages. At the same time, Five Prime will continue to conduct trials in pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS) and immuno-oncology with FPA008, which is a product of our proprietary protein platform and our discovery of IL-34, one of the two ligands for CSF1R that FPA008 blocks."

- here's the release