ZymoGenetics turns in stellar IIa data on melanoma program

Bristol-Myers Squibb landed a big bonus from ZymoGenetics this morning. Just weeks after the Seattle-based biotech agreed to an $885 million buyout offer, the smaller biotech announced some impressive results from a Phase IIa clinical trial of its IL-21 program for metastatic melanoma.

More than half of the 40 patients enrolled for the study were alive after one year and patients had survived a median of 12.4 months. As Xconomy's Luke Timmerman notes, one of Bristol's melanoma drugs took center stage at ASCO this year after one of its drugs produced a median survival rate of 10 months. And the IL-21 program wasn't even the most important program in ZymoGenetics pipeline when Bristol came calling with its checkbook.

IL-21 activates the immune system's natural killer cells, terminating cancerous or virally infected cells, which could do more than fight melanoma. ZymoGenetics does have a drug on the market. But Bristol's interest in the biotech was whetted after the two partnered on a promising hepatitis C therapy.

"The median overall survival of 12.4 months in the Phase 2 study with IL-21 in advanced melanoma patients is very encouraging," said Eleanor Ramos, ZymoGenetics' chief medical officer, in a release. "We look forward to further results from an ongoing IL-21 Phase 2b randomized clinical trial in melanoma."

- here's the ZymoGenetics release
- see the Xconomy report