Pfizer is to acquire Array BioPharma,for $11.4bn, bolstering its presence in oncology.
The acquisition announced yesterday is the big pharma company’s largest since it bought another oncology specialist, Medivation in 2016 for $14bn, and could help build a third cancer blockbuster franchise for the company.
Array has one product already on the market which it markets itself, its Braftovi and Mektovi combination, which was approved 12 months ago in the US for unresectable or metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600E or V600K mutation.
However its greatest potential is in colorectal cancer. A triplet combination of Braftovi and Mektovi plus cetuximab in the Phase 3 BEACON trial in BRAF-mutant metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) showed strong results last month, and Array will file with regulators shortly.
Analysts at Evaluate Pharma forecast Braftovi/Mektovi can generate $1.2bn of revenue by 2024, $702m of which will come from colorectal cancer.
Array’s triplet combination could become the first chemotherapy-free, targeted treatment for BRAF-mutant mCRC, and provide a new option for the 15% of colorectal cancer patients who have the BRAF mutation.
Array’s next big data read out will come from first-line Anchor CRC study, expected mid-2020.
Pfizer hasn’t bought up Array just for its late-stage pipeline, however – the company’s R&D division has had considerable success with other novel oncology agents.
There are two further Array-developed drugs on the market: Vitrakvi (licensed to Loxo, which was then acquired by Eli Lilly) and hepatitis C drug Ganovo, licensed to Roche and now approved in China.
In addition there are a further 13 pipeline programmes, eight of which are in phase 3. It’s this track record and broad portfolio which made Array a high priority target.
“We are very excited by Array’s impressive track record of successfully discovering and developing innovative small-molecules and targeted cancer therapies,” said Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer chief scientific officer and president, worldwide research, development and medical.
Pfizer has indicated that there won’t be layoff among Array’s employees, and that its existing facilities in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Morrisville, North Carolina, and its current HQ in Boulder, Colorado will augment Pfizer’s Oncology Research & Development network. This adds to Pfizer’s facilities in La Jolla, California and Pearl River, New York.
Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer, said the acquisition will help it create “a potentially industry-leading franchise” for colorectal cancer alongside Pfizer’s existing presence in breast and prostate cancers, where it has the blockbusters Ibrance and the Astellas co-marketed prostate cancer treatment Xtandi.
Pfizer is paying a 62% premium on Array’s price before the takeover bid, which has made some analysts wary, based on the big pharma’s most recent experience in mid-sized acquisitions. The 2016 Medivation buyout saw its value drop when Xtandi failed to live up to expectations, and a late stage PARP inhibitor failed in phase 3 trials.
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Takeda of Japan has partnered with Hong Kong-based Hutchmed, gaining the commercial rights to colorectal cancer drug fruquintinib outside of China for $400 million up front, plus $730 million in potential milestone payments. Takeda also will help develop fruquintinib, which can be applied to subtypes of refractory metastatic colorectal cancer, regardless of biomarker status, the companies said.
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