Life Sciences Insight

Bristol Myers provides Bridge over troubled water with $905M deal to enter SHP2 race

Bristol Myers Squibb came to the rescue of a beleaguered BridgeBio today, striking a $905 million biobuck deal to secure a rival to oncology candidates in development at Merck, Novartis, Roche, Sanofi and more.

The deal means BMS has joined the throngs of companies working on SHP2 inhibition. But it also offers a rare piece of good news for BridgeBio in the troubled period since it posted phase 3 data that disappointed investors last year. The setback was followed by two rounds of layoffs and the departure of its chief strategy officer.

SHP2 has emerged as a hot cancer target as drug developers have sought to maximize the efficacy of KRAS inhibitors. With some research suggesting SHP2 inhibition diminishes the cycling of KRAS between two states, the mechanism could help to unlock the full power of therapies such as Amgen’s Lumakras and Mirati Therapeutics’ adagrasib. 

BMS may be thinking about SHP2 in a different way. With the pharma giant lacking an in-house or partnered KRAS drug, the first use case for the in-licensed SHP2 inhibitor BBP-398 is in combination with the Big Pharma’s checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo.

BridgeBio persuaded BMS to co-fund a phase 1 BBP-398-Opdivo combination clinical trial in solid tumors driven by mutations in the MAPK signaling pathway last year. Now, BMS has tightened its ties to the molecule, handing over $90 million upfront and committing to up to $815 million in development, regulatory and sales milestone payments for an exclusive license. 

“We have seen the potential role SHP2 inhibition could play in unlocking possible combination therapies to treat patients suffering from a range of cancers. We are hopeful this collaboration with BridgeBio will help us maximize the possibilities SHP2 inhibition with BBP-398 will hold for patients,” Rupert Vessey, executive vice president for research and early development at BMS, said in a statement.

The deal tucks BMS into the middle of the pack in the SHP2 race. Novartis has made the early running, getting TNO155 into the clinic in 2017 and going on to ink a KRAS combination pact with Mirati. Companies including AbbVie, Sanofi and Roche also have stakes in clinical-phase SHP2 inhibitors, while Merck has secured itself a spot further back in the race through a deal with Otsuka.