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Nektar Therapeutics, Bristol-Myers Expand Effort to Develop Treatment for Cancer

Nektar Therapeutics shares leap as the company and Bristol-Myers said they would expand their partnership to develop a cancer treatment.
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Shares of Nektar Therapeutics  (NKTR) - Get Nektar Therapeutics Report jumped on Friday after the biotechnology company and the pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb  (BMY) - Get Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Report said they'd expanded their agreement to jointly develop an anti-cancer treatment.

That treatment is Nektar’s bempegaldesleukin (bempeg) plus BMY's Opdivo (nivolumab). 

The companies said they would expand the development program for bempeg plus nivolumab to include trials in adjuvant melanoma and in muscle-invasive bladder cancer.

The treatment already is undergoing trials for metastatic melanoma, metastatic urothelial cancer and metastatic renal-cell carcinoma.

The two companies began collaborating in 2016, and cost-sharing provisions won’t change as part of the expanded accord, they said.

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"Bristol-Myers Squibb and Nektar view bempeg as an important asset," Fouad Namouni, head of oncology development for BMY, said in a statement. Bristol-Myers Squibb, New York, is "committed to the development of potential new combination therapies to address the unmet needs of patients living with cancer."

As for Nektar, San Francisco, “We now have a comprehensive plan to target multiple indications and have the opportunity to continue to collaborate on development with other companies in indications outside" those in the BMY-Nektar development program, CEO Howard Robin said.

SVB Leerink analyst Daina Graybosch thinks highly of the strategy to combine bempeg with Opdivo, though the treatment will likely face competition, Bloomberg reports. Graybosch rates Nektar market perform.

At last check Nektar shares stood at $25.60, up 19%. In the year through Thursday, the stock had slumped 48%. 

Bristol-Myers Squibb shares were little changed at $65.36.