Pfizer will buy Array BioPharma for $10.6 billion to gain its promising new medicines for cancer, which could end or limit the use of punishing chemotherapy for some patients.
The agreed price is $48 per share in cash.
Array’s shares have soared, thanks to drugs that target a mutation that’s found across a variety of tumor types and could be used in treating a broad set of cancers in patients who carry the mutation. Array’s drugs, Braftovi and Mektovi, are already approved in the U.S. for use in advanced melanoma.
Pfizer said it will get royalties from the uses of drugs that Array has licensed out to other companies. It will acquire a pipeline of drugs in development, as well as future revenue from Braftovi and Mektovi in some other malignancies, such as colon cancer.
Cancer has become one of the hottest areas for deal activity between drug and biotechnology companies. Research efforts dating back decades have helped scientists understand how genetic mutations cause some cancers to grow, and other advances have helped them learn how tumors evade the body’s defenses.
That knowledge has created an array of targets for drugmakers to attack, leading to new tailored therapies often defined by a tumor cell’s specific biology rather than its location in the body.
Unlike other biotech stocks, many of which have pulled back from 2018 highs, Array’s shares have been on a steady march upward. The stock was already at a record before the deal announcement, following Array’s news last month of positive clinical trial results using Braftovi and Mektovi with Eli Lilly & Co.’s Erbitux. That combination could be the first chemotherapy-free regimen for some patients who have advanced colon cancer.
Array’s drug targets a mutation called BRAF, which can show up in some forms of melanoma, colorectal and thyroid cancers, among others.
Other drugs on the market target that mutation as well. Roche Holding’s Zelboraf is projected to bring in $168.7 million this year, according to a survey of analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Novartis’ Tafinlar is used in combination with another drug Mekinist, and the combination is expected to bring in $1.24 billion this year.
The deal also could boost other biotech stocks, especially companies with drugs in the later stages of development that could be appetizing for big drugmakers.
“We expect this announcement to provide a tailwind for the sector,” said Stephen Willey, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co. He called the premium for the deal appropriate, given the company’s positive clinical trial news.
The deal is Pfizer’s biggest since its 2016 acquisition of Medivation for $14 billion, another blockbuster cancer deal that the New York-based company used to expand its oncology offerings. With that takeover, Pfizer gained Xtandi, a prostate cancer drug that last year brought it $699 million.