UPDATE: Record scratch—Nektar and PureTech's merger talks are off

PureTech Health says merger talks with Nektar Therapeutics have ended, not even a week after the conversations were first confirmed. 

The about-face from PureTech is due to concerns that the company’s prior statement, made Oct. 6 in response to press speculation about the merger, “created the impression that discussions were more advanced than they were,” according to a statement issued today (Oct. 11) about the termination. Last week, PureTech said that it had “exchanged indicative, non-binding proposals with Nektar” that may have included an offer for share capital of PureTech, and it is now stressing the talks were in an “early stage”. 

The initial 28-day offer window that was triggered when PureTech first announced the discussions now no longer applies, since Nektar, as noted in its own release, triggered a portion of U.K. M&A law, Rule 2.8, vanquishing the offer window.

With few details about the substance or depth of the negotiations, it’s difficult to piece together how the discussions started and ultimately ended. But a source close to the negotiations provided more clarity into how this went down. The source said that word had leaked to a U.K. message board that PureTech was in talks to be acquired. Nektar wasn't included in the leak but U.K. law requires a company to address M&A leaks, prompting PureTech's original disclosure on Oct. 6. Nektar had to unveil itself as a part of that law or else it would've been shut out of any potential deal for at least three months. But once the announcement was made, the 28-day "offer period" was triggered, prompting the formal termination of discussions.

But both companies were at inflection points when PureTech first confirmed merger talks. Nektar was roughly six months removed from its multi-billion-dollar collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb going up in flames after persistent clinical failures involving the former company’s IL-2 agonist, bempegaldesleukin. Weeks after the partnership ended, Nektar laid off 70% of its staff.

And while it was a significant step back, Nektar still has two significant programs it was progressing—IL-15 agonist NKTR-255 and Lilly-partnered autoimmune med NKTR-358—and more than $600 million in cash, as of the end of June. 

PureTech, on the other hand, had just more than $340 million on hand at the end of June, enough to last into the first quarter of 2026. But like most biotechs, it noted that future development hinges on a diversity of funding sources, including "potential business development activities." The company made a name for itself by launching noteworthy spinoff companies, including Karuna Therapeutics, which is gearing up to ask for FDA approval of its schizophrenia treatment in 2023.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with more details from Nektar's announcement and a source close to the negotiations.