Daiichi Sankyo bags leukemia drug in $410M Ambit buyout

About 18 months after Astellas dumped its development partnership with Ambit Biosciences on a now late-stage drug for acute myeloid leukemia, Daiichi Sankyo has stepped in to snap up the San Diego-based biotech for up to $410 million. The deal helps beef up the Japanese company's oncology pipeline.

Daiichi Sankyo is paying $315 million in cash--or $15 a share--for Ambit ($AMBI), with the rest in contingent value rights based on commercialization goals. The CVR is worth $4.50. 

The deal is bound to please many Ambit shareholders, who saw the stock price close Friday at $8.20. The cash portion of the buyout deal represents an 83% premium over the close.

The prime asset that drove this deal was Ambit's quizartinib (AC220).

At the end of 2012, Ambit, a 2006 Fierce 15 company, reported that two cohorts of relapsed AML patients who were FLT3-ITD-positive demonstrated signs of a response to the drug. About half of each group had a "composite complete response" and one in three "FLT3-ITD positive patients who had relapsed or were refractory after two prior lines of treatment or after a prior hematopoietic stem cell transplant received a potentially curative HSCT following treatment with quizartinib." There was no control arm in the study.

Ambit has stumbled badly along the way. The biotech was forced to take a big discount when it went public shortly after the Astellas pact fell through, pricing shares at $8 in the spring of 2013. Its final venture round raised $50 million, with OrbiMed Advisors joined Aisling Capital, Apposite Healthcare, GIMV, GrowthWorks, Forward Ventures, MedImmune Ventures, Radius Ventures and Roche Ventures in the round.

Joji Nakayama

"The acquisition of Ambit Biosciences further builds our presence in oncology to ensure we are delivering on our goal of providing world-class, innovative pharmaceuticals in core areas of unmet medical need," said Daiichi Sankyo CEO Joji Nakayama. "Long-term success in oncology depends upon three pillars fostering development of our in-house molecules, exploring mutually beneficial partnerships and executing strategic purchases, such as Ambit Biosciences, which follows our acquisitions of U3 Pharma and Plexxikon."

- here's the press release

Special Report: 2006 Fierce 15 - Ambit Biosciences