Bristol's multiple new launches won't stop it from scouting for M&A deals, CEO says

Bristol Myers Squibb is already juggling several important drug launches. But that doesn’t mean the company can’t take on another near-to-market asset now through an M&A deal, CEO Giovanni Caforio said.

“I don’t see commercial capacity as a factor that would constrain our ability” to look at business development around later-stage assets, the outgoing chief executive said during an investor call Thursday.

“We have fully resourced organizations across all four therapeutic areas,” Caforio said, later adding that “there’s clearly capacity from multiple perspectives to continue to add assets to the portfolio.” Bristol’s core focus areas are solid tumors, hematology, immunology and cardiovascular disease.

Striking deals remains Bristol’s “top priority,” Chief Financial Officer David Elkins said during the call. BMS will continue to look for deals in fields where the company has deep R&D and commercial expertise, regardless of the stage of the program, he said.

Caforio pointed to BMS’ $13.1 billion acquisition of MyoKardia—which gave it newly FDA-approved cardiovascular drug Camzyos—and the $4.1 billion deal for Turning Point Therapeutics as good examples of BMS striking deals with the potential to add sales in the near term.

Meanwhile, BMS already has a lot going on in the commercial department, which was until Wednesday led by Chris Boerner. BMS hopes that seven drugs launched since 2020 will bring more than $25 billion in combined sales by 2030 to help cushion the blow from a steep patent cliff later in the decade.

On Wednesday, BMS said CEO Caforio will retire in November. He'll be replaced by Boerner, who was promoted to chief operating officer before the CEO transition.

During the first quarter of 2023, Bristol reported $723 million from a group of nine new medicines. Although the haul more than doubled the group’s figure from the same period last year, it only represents about 6% of the company’s entire revenue for the quarter. The young portfolio still has a long way to go, and each med faces its own challenges.

Sales from multiple myeloma CAR-T therapy Abecma reached $147 million, up from $125 million in the prior three months or $67 million from the first quarter of 2022. The BCMA-targeted cell therapy is on track for an approval in an earlier treatment setting, but impressive data from Johnson & Johnson and Legend Biotech’s Carvykti suggest Abecma may struggle to win over some doctors.

Bristol's other CAR-T drug, the CD19-targeted Breyanzi, brought in $71 million for the quarter, up from $55 million in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Trying to resolve a manufacturing bottleneck that’s been limiting the growth of the two CAR-T therapies, BMS just bought a new facility in Illinois to increase the supply of viral vectors. But Boerner noted that the site will only be able to meaningfully contribute to production in 2025 because of a fairly complex onboarding and tech transfer process.

Elsewhere, the PD-1/LAG-3 combo Opdualag ginned up $117 million during the first quarter. According to Boerner, Opdualag now holds a 20% share of the market in its approved melanoma indication, with 65% of its use coming from PD-1 monotherapy.

BMS is awaiting a phase 2 readout for Opdaualg in non-small cell lung cancer later this year. The data will pave the way for the design of a pivotal phase 3 trial.

Outside of oncology, oral plaque psoriasis med Sotyktu collected $16 million in first-quarter sales. BMS is still working through reimbursement hurdles and currently expects to see “substantive changes in market access” in 2024, Boerner said.

The TYK2 inhibitor, however, just suffered a clinical setback. Sotyktu has failed in a phase 2 trial in Crohn’s disease, BMS disclosed Thursday. But BMS remains hopeful that additional opportunities in psoriatic arthritis and lupus could eventually contribute to the $4 billion-plus sales potential for Sotyktu.

On the established-products front, Pfizer-partnered anticoagulant Eliquis grew U.S. sales 19% over the same period last year, but generic erosion outside the U.S. dragged down the med's overall growth rate to 7%.

BMS expects Eliquis will be among the first drugs up for price adjustments under the Inflation Reduction Act, Boerner said, but he argued it’s too early to speculate about exactly what'll happen.

“What I can commit to is that we’re going to continue to negotiate commercial and Medicare rates and formulary positions separately, and we’re going to be disciplined as we do so,” Boerner said.