Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has acquired Cormorant Pharmaceuticals, a developer of cancer and rare-disease therapies, for up to $520 million, in a deal designed to broaden the buyer’s oncology pipeline, the companies said today.

The deal gives BMS full rights to Cormorant’s HuMax-IL8 antibody program and lead candidate HuMax-IL8, a Phase I/II monoclonal antibody targeted against interleukin-8 (IL-8).

By targeting IL-8, HuMax-IL8 offers the potential to enhance immune response and increase the efficacy of existing cancer medicines through combination therapy, BMS and Cormorant reason, adding that the antibody candidate can complement T-cell-directed antibodies and co-stimulatory molecules.

“We believe combination therapy will be foundational to delivering the potential for long-term survival for patients, and the opportunity to develop the HuMax-IL8 antibody program together with our broad Immuno-oncology pipeline enables us to accelerate the next wave of potentially transformational immunotherapies,” Francis Cuss, MB BChir, FRCP, evp and CSO, BMS said in a statement.

As of May 1, according to its website, BMS’ immuno-oncology portfolio includes three marketed treatments—Opdivo® (nivolumab), Empliciti™ (elotuzumab) and Yervoy® (ipilimumab)—and a pipeline anchored by the Phase III candidate Prostvac with five Phase I candidates.

BMS’ cancer holdings also include the marketed small-molecule drug Sprycel® (dasatinib) and five Phase I candidates.

“Bristol-Myers Squibb’s rich pipeline of clinical candidates and approved products provides even more opportunity for potential therapeutic synergy when coupled with HuMax-IL8,” added Cormorant CEO Maarten de Château, M.D., Ph.D.

Cormorant acquired exclusive worldwide rights to HuMax-IL8 from Genmab in 2012 in return for an upfront fee and future milestones and royalties, all undisclosed. Genmab in turn acquired the candidate 5 years earlier from Medarex, which BMS acquired in 2009 for $2.4 billion.

On its LinkedIn page, Cormorant stated that HuMax-IL8 is envisioned as a treatment for several forms of cancer since IL-8 is a protein expressed by many solid tumors: “IL-8 inhibition also has the potential to reduce tumor immunosuppression through MDSCs (myeloid-`derived suppressor cells).”

Under the transaction, BMS agreed to pay upfront and near-term milestone payments of up to $95 million, as well as $425 million in additional payments tied to achieving development and regulatory milestones.

The boards of BMS and privately held Cormorant have approved the deal, BMS’ second immuno-oncology effort in as many weeks. On Thursday, BMS and PsiOxus Therapeutics launched an exclusive clinical collaboration to study the combination of Opdivo with PsiOxus Therapeutics’ enadenotucirev in treating a range of tumor types in late-stage cancer patients.

Previous articleStudy Shows Genetic Influences on Individual Immune Responses to Pathogens
Next articlePromise for Pancreatic Cancer from New Immunotherapy Results