Pharma giant Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY) announced Tuesday that it will acquire clinical-stage biotech RayzeBio for $4.1 billion, continuing Bristol’s strategy of deals to refresh its drug pipeline amid upcoming patent expirations.
RayzeBio is developing a novel targeted radiotherapy called RYZ101 to treat multiple types of cancer. The company’s technology combines tumor-targeting antibodies with radioactive isotope payloads that selectively damage cancer cells’ DNA when delivered.
RYZ101 is currently in Phase 3 testing for treating metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Early clinical data showed promising results with the drug demonstrating tumor response rates of 44-55%.
Bristol gains full rights to RYZ101 and RayzeBio’s broader platform for linking radioisotopes to cancer-fighting proteins. The deal gives Bristol a potential new blockbuster cancer treatment as competition intensifies in the immuno-oncology space.
Shoring Up the Cancer Business
Bristol already markets leading cancer immunotherapies Opdivo and Yervoy. However, Opdivo faces patent expiration in 2028/2031, forcing Bristol to find new long-term growth drivers.
The RayzeBio deal comes right after Bristol announced the $13.1 billion acquisition of schizophrenia drug developer Karuna Therapeutics last Friday. Karuna’s lead drug KarXT could generate peak annual sales of over $3 billion, analysts project.
These acquisitions help future-proof Bristol’s business as its top-selling drugs face new competition. Blood thinner Eliquis, which makes up over 30% of Bristol’s revenue, will see biosimilar rivals by 2026. Cancer drug Revlimid, acquired in Bristol’s 2019 buyout of Celgene, faces generics soon too.
“We are focused on strengthening our portfolio through a combination of internal programs and targeted business development,” said Bristol Myers CEO Giovanni Caforio. The RayzeBio and Karuna deals “complement our existing pillars of growth,” he added.
Betting Big on Radio-Pharmaceuticals
In addition to RYZ101’s potential, Bristol gains RayzeBio’s expertise with radio-pharmaceuticals. Attaching radioactive particles to antibodies allows them to precisely pinpoint tumor cells and kill them via DNA damage.
RayzeBio’s technology overcomes past challenges with radio-drugs such as lack of tumor specificity and rapid decay of radioisotopes. Linking radioisotopes to robust antibodies circumvents these issues and improves the drugs’ efficacy.
Analysts see radio-pharmaceuticals as an emerging trend in oncology. Radio-immunotherapies like RayzeBio’s could complement immuno-oncology drugs that activate the immune system against cancer.
By acquiring RayzeBio’s platform, Bristol can expand development of new radio-drug conjugates across its oncology pipeline. Bristol may also look to license out the technology to other companies given the heightened industry interest.
An Expensive Acquisition
Bristol is paying a huge premium to acquire RayzeBio before the biotech can prove RYZ101’s efficacy in late-stage testing. The $4.1 billion price tag works out to $62.50 per share, more than double RayzeBio’s prior closing price.
But Bristol likely wanted to preempt competition for the promising biotech asset. Amgen and Novartis are also developing radio-pharmaceutical drugs for cancer. And RayzeBio would have commanded an even higher valuation had RYZ101 succeeded in Phase 3.
Bristol expects the acquisition will reduce its adjusted earnings by about 13 cents per share in 2024. But Bristol maintained its existing profit guidance for 2022 and 2023, implying confidence the long-term benefits outweigh the near-term costs.
The company plans to finance the purchase using new debt. Bristol’s strong cash flows should allow it to service the additional debt load as it waits for RYZ101 to potentially reach the market around 2025.
Conclusion: Bolstering Its Firepower
The back-to-back deals for Karuna Therapeutics and RayzeBio showcase Bristol Myers Squibb’s strategy to acquire new therapies and drug platforms that can drive growth over the next decade. While expensive, these acquisitions reduce Bristol’s reliance on aging blockbuster drugs facing patent cliffs.
Gaining Karuna’s potential multi-billion dollar schizophrenia medicine and RayzeBio’s cutting-edge radio-pharmaceutical technology gives Bristol valuable new firepower to deploy in the fiercely competitive pharma market. If successful, the deals will ensure Bristol Myers remains an industry leader as it confronts upcoming challenges from biosimilar and generic competition.