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BMS, Celgene Discuss $74 Billion Acquisition During JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

Jaime Rosenberg

Kicking things off with a twist this year, the 37th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference opened up with a joint session between Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS) and Celgene, who last week announced their $74 billion merger.

With stakes in the same fields and blockbuster drugs like Opdivo (nivolumab), Yervoy (ipilimumab), Revlimid (lenalidomide), and Eliquis (apixaban), the complimentarity of the 2 companies will drive more value in oncology, autoimmune diseases, and cardiology, explained Giovanni Caforio, chairman and chief executive officer, BMS.

Within the next 12 to 24 months, the combined company will prepare to launch 6 new medications, 5 of which are in Celgene’s pipeline: luspatercept, ozanimod, liso-cel, bb2121, and fedratinib. The late-stage pipeline also includes 10 phase 3 assets and more than 20 life cycle management opportunities in immuno-oncology, said Caforio. With a nearly doubled early-stage pipeline, the combined company has 50 phase 1 and 2 assets across all 3 therapeutic areas.

“This is a scientific powerhouse; when you put together the innovation and the scientists who are at BMS with what we’ve built through our network of partners and our standalone company, the scientific prowess of this company is unparalleled,” said Mark J. Alles, chairman and chief executive officer, Celgene.

Discussing the value brought to the deal by each company, Caforio cited BMS’ industry-leading access and reimbursement organization created through its experience with apixaban and nivolumab, which he said will be important for the 6 new launches in certain fields like cell therapy, where the access and reimbursement landscape is just beginning to be shaped. He also pointed to Celgene’s success with establishing Otezla (apremilast) in the psoriasis marketplace, which will help with BMS’ potential launch of its TYK2.

While both companies have said the deal was not driven by lenalidomide, the multiple myeloma drug is a large piece of Celgene’s portfolio and drew the question of how BMS got comfortable with the drug’s intellectual property (IP) landscape. While the drug will lose patent protection and face generic competition in the coming years, Caforio said BMS did its due diligence on the drug and voiced confidence in the strength of its IP estate.

Alles followed up by emphasizing that Celgene brings 5 near-launch products to the deal, which could rake in between $12 billion and $14 billion in peak sales. He added: “Of course this overlays the window that we’re talking about with respect to Revlimid IP. So, it’s not only the confidence in the estate and the outlook of Revlimid cash flows, it’s also how we layer on in the combined company: a lot of launch revenue, a lot of new diversification.”

Caforio echoed Alles comments, adding that the 5 medications are differentiated medicines addressing areas of high medical need, including multiple sclerosis with liso-cel.

Looking at the early-stage pipeline, Caforio expressed his excitement with cell therapy. “As we think about bringing those products to market, many of the short-term challenges with pricing, reimbursement, and funding mechanisms will have evolved,” he said. “So, this is one case in which coming in a bit later will be an advantage.”

He also highlighted B-cell maturation antigen, which he said Celgene is targeting from multiple modalities and will help advance the treatment of multiple myeloma.
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