Novartis leads race to acquire Monjuvi maker MorphoSys: Reuters

After Novartis reportedly backed out of late-stage talks to acquire Cytokinetics earlier this year, the company appears to still be on the M&A prowl.

Novartis is in advanced talks to acquire German cancer drug maker MorphoSys, Reuters reports, citing two people familiar with the matter.  

The anonymous sources stayed mum on details about the bid and a potential acquisition price, according to the news service. Also involved in the MorphoSys M&A talks is Incyte, according to Reuters.

As a “matter of policy,” Novartis does not comment on “market rumors/speculations,” a company spokesperson said over email. Incyte and MorphoSys did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma's requests for comment. 

Both known bidders have preexisting ties to the company, with Novartis taking over a MorphoSys preclinical cancer program in 2022 and Incyte partnering on MorphoSys' sole commercial product, the lymphoma med Monjuvi.

Monjuvi garnered $92 million in U.S. sales last year, and MorphoSys expects 2024 sales of between $80 million and $95 million.

The Novartis deal marked the start of a larger pipeline trim for MorphoSys. A few months after it scored $23 million in cash from Novartis, the company announced the end of its preclinical research programs altogether, opting instead to focus on its mid- to late-stage oncology programs.

At the same time, the drugmaker laid of 17% of its workforce at its German headquarters.

More recently, MorphoSys read out mixed data from a phase 3 study of its BET inhibitor pelabresib in myelofibrosis. While the primary endpoint was met, the company’s management had previously communicated that the measure was one of two outcomes needed to make a mark on the myelofibrosis market. Pelabresib failed in the second endpoint, prompting executives to switch up their messaging and stand behind the data.

As for Novartis, the reported M&A effort marks the second time this year that the company's name has turned up in an M&A rumor. In January, the company was reportedly set to score a Cytokinetics buy, only to drop its pursuit a few days later, multiple outlets reported.

With the latest news, MorphoSys shares skyrocketed by 50% on Monday afternoon.