Servier snaps up antibody biotech Symphogen, looks to become 'recognized oncology player'

French biopharma Servier has bought up Danish cancer biotech Symphogen as it looks to bolster its immuno-oncology pipeline.

The deal, financial terms of which have not been made public, unusually, moves Servier’s R&D more deeply into oncology, building on its recent pact with Cellectis and its cell therapies.

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In its latest deal, Servier grabs new antibody tech and comes after two years of being partners. It currently has six clinical-phase development projects as well as six projects in discovery or preclinical. These are made up of two clinical oncology projects, Sym004 and Sym015, and three oncology discovery projects targeting FLT3 (Sym027), AXL (Sym028) and CD40 (Sym029).

It’s still not revealing a high amount of detail for its early drug targets, but does say that Sym004 and Sym015 are focused on colorectal cancer and lung cancer, respectively, and are in midstage testing.

In fact, Sym004 has some history: Five years ago, Merck KGaA, which was then in the process of paring down its pipeline, walked away from its $625 million deal with Symphogen and handed back Sym004, which works as a combination of two antibodies designed to attack the EGFR receptors on cancer cells and halt tumor growth.

It went on to focus on checkpoint inhibitor Bavcenio, partnered with Pfizer.

The biotech also has a phase 2 infectious disease project, known as Sym009, which is being developed by Roche’s Genentech unit and targets Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia.

Under the buyout, Symphogen becomes a standalone, wholly owned unit and Servier’s “antibody center of excellence.” It will also maintain its headquarters in Ballerup, Denmark, and “continue to rely on its current and experienced employees,” the pair said in a statement.

The French biopharma said this will “secure its ambition to become a recognized player in oncology,” helped in no small part by its recent $2.4 billion buy of Shire’s cancer biz, itself coming after the Irish-based pharma was subsumed into Takeda.

Olivier Laureau, president of Servier, said: “The acquisition of Symphogen is an important step for Servier to meet its strategic ambitions to become a recognized player in oncology.

“Antibody-based therapies remain a key therapeutic modality within oncology and immuno-oncology, and with Symphogen’s strong antibody capabilities, this acquisition will boost significantly our R&D in oncology and in our other therapeutic areas. Our goal is to bring life-saving treatments to greater numbers of patients around the world. We thoroughly look forward to welcoming Symphogen to the Servier Group following the closing of the deal.”

Bernhard Ehmer, Symphogen chair, added: “This transaction is a key milestone for Symphogen and its owners as it validates the strength of our oncology portfolio and attractiveness of our antibody technologies. Our existing strategic collaboration with Servier has demonstrated the strategic fit between the two organizations and I am convinced that Servier is well-positioned to further enhance the potential of Symphogen.”