2022-04-17| M&A

GSK to Acquire Biopharmaceutical Company Sierra Oncology for $1.9B

by Arvind C. Shekhar
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GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the global healthcare major, is all set to acquire the San Mateo, California based late-stage biopharmaceutical company Sierra Oncology, Inc. Sierra Oncology’s mission is to deliver targeted therapies that treat rare forms of cancer. Under the terms of the agreement, the acquisition will be a one-step merger in which Sierra Oncology will receive $55 per share in cash representing an approximate total equity value of $1.9 billion (£1.5 billion).

Related article: AACR 2022 Opening: Decoding Cancer Complexity to Transform Patient Outcomes


Myelofibrosis: Its Cause, Occurrence and Standard of Care


Myelofibrosis (MF) is a fatal cancer of the bone marrow impacting the normal production of blood cells. Though MF can occur at any age, the median age at diagnosis ranges from 60 to 67 years. It is a progressive disease that affects both men and women and can transform into secondary acute myelogenous leukemia (in 8% to 23% of patients). The median survival for all patients with MF is about 6 years, but it is considerably shorter for high-risk patients at just 2.25 years. Myelofibrosis is caused by dysregulated JAK-STAT signaling and is characterized by constitutional symptoms, an enlarged spleen and progressive anemia. 

The current standard of care for MF is treatment with JAK inhibitors. However, currently approved JAK inhibitors can be myelosuppressive, leading to reduced hemoglobin and platelet production (Anemia). Anemia represents a high unmet medical need in patients with myelofibrosis. At diagnosis, approximately 40% of patients are already anaemic, and it is estimated that nearly all patients eventually develop anaemia. Anaemia and transfusion dependence are strongly correlated with poor prognosis and decreased overall survival. 


Momelotinib: Sierra’s Prime Candidate and Advantages of the Acquisition for GSK


Sierra Oncology’s lead product candidate- momelotinib, is a selective and orally bioavailable Janus kinase (JAK)1, JAK2 and activin A receptor, type I (ACVR1)/activin receptor-like kinase-2 (ALK2) inhibitor currently under investigation for the treatment of myelofibrosis. It has a differentiated mode of action with inhibitory activity along the aforementioned key signalling pathways. This activity may lead to beneficial treatment effects on anaemia and reduce the need for transfusions while also treating symptoms. In January 2022, Sierra Oncology announced positive topline results from the MOMENTUM phase III trial. The study met all its primary and key secondary endpoints, demonstrating that momelotinib achieved a statistically significant and clinically meaningful benefit on symptoms, splenic response, and anaemia.

Momelotinib also complements GSK’s Blenrep (belantamab mafodotin), building on GSK’s commercial and medical expertise in haematology. The proposed acquisition aligns with GSK’s strategy of building a strong portfolio of new speciality medicines and vaccines. If the transaction is completed and momelotinib is approved by regulatory authorities, GSK expects momelotinib will contribute to GSK’s growing speciality medicines business, with sales expected to begin in 2023, with significant growth potential and a positive benefit to the Group’s adjusted operating margin in the medium term.

 In addition to momelotinib, Sierra Oncology’s pipeline consists of two assets in phase I SRA515 and SRA737. SRA515 is a selective bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4) bromodomain and extra-terminal domain (BET) inhibitor with a novel bivalent binding mode that inhibits both protein bromodomains, and SRA737 is a novel checkpoint kinase 1 (CHK1) inhibitor. Both SRA515 and SRA737 are proposed for treatment of Heme malignancies and Solid tumors and could aid GSK’s commercial and medical expertise in haematology even in the future.

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