Servier/Agios Pharmaceuticals’ oncology portfolio
Deal value: $1.8 billion (upfront)
Premium to previous closing price: N/A
Date announced: Dec. 21, 2020
In today’s biopharma world, oncology portfolios and R&D know-how are much sought after. So it can be hard to imagine a company would trade off over a decade of cancer work—which gave birth to two commercial products—to focus on other diseases. But that’s exactly what Agios Pharmaceuticals did.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech uprooted its oncology franchise and transferred it to Servier for $1.8 billion upfront, shifting its attention onto rare genetic disorders.
The two commercial drugs it has successfully developed are acute myeloid leukemia therapies Tibsovo and Idhifa, with the latter marketed by Bristol Myers Squibb. Before the Servier deal was unveiled in December, Agios has practically severed its ties with Idhifa by selling its rights to receiving outstanding milestone payments and sales-based royalties to Royalty Pharma for $255 million in June.
Despite their first-in-class aura, the drugs aren’t anything of blockbuster potential. Approved in 2018 for relapsed or refractory AML bearing the IDH1 mutation, Tibsovo only sold $31.7 million in the third quarter after a sequential increase of 15%. And potential competition from Forma Therapeutics’ olutasidenib is waiting in the wings.
As for Idhifa, it’s the only FDA-approved drug for IDH2-mutated r/r AML. But phase 3 data disclosed in August showed addition of the drug to best supportive care didn’t improve patients’ lives.
The deal also covers three pipeline candidates, led by vorasidenib, a dual inhibitor of IDH1 and IDH2. The drug’s currently in phase 3 testing for low-grade glioma, and its successful U.S. approval is a condition that could trigger altogether a $200 million milestone payment to Agios.
With the cancer portfolio gone, Agios is now dedicating its expertise in cellular metabolism and pyruvate kinase activation to genetically defined disease. The pyruvate kinase enzyme is involved in a cellular energy-producing process known as glycolysis.
For now, all Agios’ resources are being channeled to mitapivat, which just succeeded in the first of two phase 3 trials in a rare form of anemia called pyruvate kinase deficiency. Forma also has a rival pyruvate kinase activator dubbed FT-4202, though it’s being directed against sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Agios also has plans to test mitapivat in those two blood disorders soon.
The Agios transaction followed other cancer deals at Servier in 2020. The French pharma also snatched up its partner, Danish cancer biotech Symphogen, taking in six clinical-stage and six preclinical assets. Servier inherited the original partnership when it acquired Shire’s Baxalta oncology portfolio in 2018 for $2.4 billion.
Servier also revised its pact with Cellectis last year, taking additional rights to the latter’s CD19 off-the-shelf CAR-T therapies.