Deal will add to pharma giant’s cancer portfolio

US drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has agreed to buy Boston-based startup IFM Therapeutics. The deal gives BMS rights to IFM’s two preclinical cancer programmes – stimulator of interferon genes (Sting) and NLRP3 agonist drugs that work with the body’s innate immune system. BMS will pay $300 million (£230 million) upfront, plus up to $1.01 billion in milestones per programme.

For BMS, the acquisition should strengthen its immuno-oncology business. BMS’ checkpoint inhibitor antibody drug Opdivo (nivolumab) has stumbled at some regulatory hurdles amid stiff competition from Merck and it’s checkpoint drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

The startup preserved some assets – including Sting and NLRP3 antagonists, for autoimmune conditions – that they will spin out into a new entity, also called IFM Therapeutics.