BMS Returns $475 Million Cancer Asset To Dragonfly Therapeutics

by Joy Lin
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Bristol Myers Squibb is returning the rights to develop Dragonfly Therapeutics’ interleukin-12 (IL-12) cytokine, DF6002, backtracking on a 2020 deal which had earned Dragonfly $475 million in near-term upfront payments.  

In the coming weeks, Dragonfly will take over clinical development of what is now its most advanced clinical asset, which is currently undergoing a dose escalation study as a monotherapy and in combination with nivolumab in the US and Europe. 

“We are very excited to have the Dragonfly-developed IL12 asset back,” said Joseph Eid, MD, Dragonfly’s head of Research and Development, who previously led the clinical development of Keytruda. Dr. Eid himself joined Dragonfly last week after two decades at Roche, Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada), and BMS. 

“Given the encouraging profile we have seen both in preclinical models and in the clinic to date, we are accelerating DF6002’s development across a range of indications and combinations,” said Dr. Eid.

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BMS Has Licensed Six Immunotherapy Candidates from Dragonfly 

DF6002 is a monovalent IL12 immunoglobulin Fc fusion protein designed to establish an inflammatory tumor microenvironment conducive for strong anti-tumor responses. According to Dragonfly, the anticancer agent may stimulate effective immune responses in patients who cannot receive or are not adequately responding to current therapies.

DF6002 is currently undergoing a Phase 1/2 study in metastatic solid tumors as a monotherapy and in combination with nivolumab. Dose escalation is progressing successfully, said Dragonfly. 

While BMS has returned DF6002, the drug giant’s collaboration with Dragonfly does not end here. Since 2017, the two companies have collaborated on hematology, oncology, and neuroinflammation targets. 

In January, the company opted to license from Dragonfly an immunotherapy candidate for neuroinflammation, triggering a $25 million payment to Dragonfly and bringing the total number of licensed candidates to six. These candidates were developed on Dragonfly’s TriNKET natural killer (NK) cell engaging platform. Two of the drug candidates have entered the clinic.  

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