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Gilead Acquires Cancer Therapy Biotech for $21B

Investment graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

14 Sept. 2020. Gilead Sciences is acquiring biotechnology company Immunomedics, specializing in immunotherapies for cancer and other diseases, in a deal valued at $21 billion. Biopharmaceutical maker Gilead, in Foster City, California, makes clear its primary interest is the Immunomedics breast cancer drug Trodelvy, approved by FDA in April.

Immunomedics, in Morris Plains, New Jersey, develops a class of drugs called antibody-drug conjugates, which join monoclonal, or highly-specific synthetic antibodies, with other compounds or additives to combine the targeting of antibodies with cancer-killing power of the drugs being delivered, thus avoiding in many people the serious adverse effects of conventional chemotherapy.

In the case of Trodelvy, the drug targets trophoblast cell-surface antigen 2 or Trop-2 proteins that overproduce on the surface of tumor cells in a number of solid-tumor cancers and help drive tumor growth. With Trodelvy, an antibody called hRS7 targets Trop-2 proteins that combines with SN-38, a metabolite of the drug irinotecan and approved by FDA as a chemotherapy.

In February 2019, Science & Enterprise reported on an early- and mid-stage clinical trial of Trodelvy, then known as sacituzumab govitecan, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (registration required). Results from the first 108 patients show the drug invokes a response and longer survival time in many patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. Safety was an issue with some patients, where the most common adverse effects were hair loss, diarrhea, and fatigue.  The most common severe adverse effects were anemia and neutropenia, a low count of neutrophils, a type of white blood cells that fight infections.

A late-stage trial found similar results, with the results so compelling the study was stopped early. The findings are expected to be presented at the upcoming European Society for Medical Oncology virtual conference. In April, FDA approved Trodelvy for patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer who have received at least two prior therapies for metastatic disease. Immunomedics says Trodelvy is the first antibody-drug conjugate approved by the FDA specifically for relapsed or refractory metastatic triple-negative breast cancer.

Gilead Sciences develops biopharmaceutical drugs for HIV/AIDs, cancer, liver diseases, cardiovascular disorders, and inflammatory and respiratory diseases. “Trodelvy is an approved, transformational medicine for a form of cancer that is particularly challenging to treat,” says Gilead chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day, in a company statement. “We will now continue to explore its potential to treat many other types of cancer, both as a monotherapy and in combination with other treatments.”

Gilead is paying Immunomedics stockholders $88.00 per share, a premium of 108 percent over Friday’s closing price of $42.25. The combination cash and debt deal is valued at $21 billion.

Immunomedics and Trodelvy have a complex history, which we’ve followed at Science & Enterprise. The company originally licensed the drug to biopharmaceutical company Seattle Genetics in February 2017 in a deal with a potential value of more than $2 billion. Almost immediately, some Immunomedics investors objected to the deal, leading to a lawsuit, temporary restraining order, and delays in implementing the agreement. By May 2017, Seattle Genetics had enough and canceled the deal, leading to the resignations of Immunomedics’s founder and CEO. The company’s chief financial officer stayed on and raised $125 million for continued development of the drug.

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