BMS, Nektar end cancer partnership

April 19, 2022

Bristol Myers Squibb and Nektar Therapeutics are closing the curtain on their multi-billion dollar cancer partnership after two more trial flops, the companies announced.

The two decided to call it quits after disappointing results came back from late-stage clinical studies of bempegaldesleukin (Bempeg) in combination with Opdivo in kidney and bladder cancer. A phase 3 study showed that the cancer treatment cocktail did not meet statistical significance for improving survival rates when compared to an investigator’s choice of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), leading the partners to discontinue the study.

BMS originally paid $1 billion in cash plus the purchase of $8 million in shares of San Fran-based Nektar and committed up to $1.8 billion in milestone payments when the partnership began in 2018. At the time, it was one of the largest biotech licensing deals in history and set up to be the 'next big thing' in cancer treatment.

The two recent failed studies were not the first time the companies have received bad news. Last month, a combination of Opdivo and Bempeg failed to improve on progression-free survival and objective response rate for patients with previously untreated melanoma, according to BMS. That trial, which was in phase 3, was shut down as well. 

With Bempeg no longer in the mix, Nektar's pipeline is devoid of late-stage programs. In a statement from BMS, both Nektar and BMS thanked patients and investigators for their involvement as they work together to wrap up the partnership.